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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 11-18-22 – A Conspiracy of Ravens

“Honestly, all crows are not ravens” ― Munia Khan

Julie and I went out to the movies last week in the town we grew up in, Bethlehem PA. We went to the Banko Cinema at Steelstacks. They have a lot of independent movies. It is our favorite theatre. It was a beautiful day and we had some extra time. We decided to walk on the Hoover Mason trestle, which is an elevated walkway modeled after the High Line in NYC. It is a tribute to our cities heritage in the building and defense of America and the local steel industry. Our community produced the steel for some of the most iconic structures in America, a source of local pride. The husk of the idled steel plant is now an arts center and a casino with a waterpark on the way. There is some symbolism there beyond the scope of a gratitude post, but I digress.

As we started our walk, we spied a pair of Ravens darting and gliding above the steel plant. They stayed as close to each other in flight as the Blue Angels would in an airshow. I could tell they were Ravens by the grace of their maneuvers. Crows row through the air. Ravens fly differently, more like an eagle or hawk than a crow. They were amazing. It was obvious they were having fun, dipping and diving over the blast furnaces and rolling over the river before climbing and stooping over and over in close formation, inches from each other. They were almost showing off how competent they were as flyers.

Julie and I were captivated. We could hear them talking with each other. Crows make caw sounds; Ravens make a croaking sound. You can lean more here. Both species are highly intelligent and have calls that communicate to their family members. They even use “hand” gestures to communicate! Ravens are believed to mate for life. They can live a long time, up to 40 years. It was clear by observing that this was a particularly close pair. Young lovers or a well bonded older couple, it was impossible to tell.

Soon, they were joined by a second pair, making this a Conspiracy of Ravens, which is one of the terms used for a group of Ravens, another term is an “unkindness.” I prefer conspiracy. We could hear them talking to each other, perhaps about us gazing up at them. Ravens are very intelligent. One can easily understand why the term conspiracy is associated with Ravens. The second pair did not fly as close to each other, but they all flew together loosely as we watched. After a while, they flew off to the south. Ravens live on every continent across the world. They do not migrate in the traditional sense, although they can wander south at times.

It was such a memorable experience; I think for both of us. The movie we saw, The Banshees of Inisherin was excellent and really thought provoking. Yet, I suspect I will remember walking along the elevated trestle with Julie watching those Ravens long after I forget the movie. It is funny how some chance experiences really resonate and stick with you over time. Moments like this are so precious.

I often reflect on recovery as part of these gratitude posts. The truth is that recovery provided me with the gift of sky. In addiction, I mostly looked at the ground. Recovery brought my head up above the horizon line and taught me how to pause long enough to see what beautiful things was going on around me. Things that I would have otherwise missed. Recovery has made me more aware of the world beyond what was going on with me from moment to moment. Those Ravens, like many of the other things I have observed over the years remind me of the world going on outside of me. Some would call it spirituality to consider the larger world and put oneself and our fleeting concerns to the side. Afterall, we live in a world in which Ravens fly, often above our heads and outside of our awareness. What an amazing world that has been loaned to us.

I am grateful for such special, unplanned moments in life. In the end, our lives are made out of these little instances, and it is often the little things that stand out as special. We shared time with a conspiracy of ravens. I am grateful we had such an experience, together. That those Ravens fly above us and perhaps talk about the strange creatures below makes me smile inside. Grateful to have such glimpses of the wonders around us in which the minutia of concerns melt away and we can just be with our world. Grateful for recovery that allowed me to be alive and experience things in this way, even if only briefly.

What are you grateful for today?

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