A walk in the park…with Ravens!!

Yesterday, I went for a hike with a dear friend of mine, and her little toy poodle.  This was originally intended to be something on the order of 60-90 minutes in Griffith Park, enjoying the semi-cool Autumn weather, and the less dense crowds that would be washing up there now that school is generally in session for the youngsters of LA…

For good or for ill, though, our plans went awry!  We traveled way out along one path, got a bit turned around, and then when we tried to retrace our steps, we got even more turned around.  I’m not sure how you go about taking a wrong turn when you don’t actually take any turns, but somehow, we managed it.  Our quick stroll through the Park turned into a four-hour trek (and we still emerged far from the car, and we were lucky that a friend had been set to come by to borrow something anyway — we transformed his visit into a rescue mission!).  Interestingly, the night before, we had just watched the new film, Gravity, in which Sandra Bullock struggles mightily to survive being stranded alone in space, and then to somehow reach the safety of home.  Our hike started to feel kind of like that after a while…

A view of LA, as seen from Griffith Park (photo by Boqiang Liao)...
A view of LA, as seen from Griffith Park (photo by Boqiang Liao)…

The adventure was not without some fabulous upside, though.  For one thing, it was just plain enjoyable — my friend and I never suffer for lack of conversation, and it was a terrific bit of additional bonding.  For another, the sweet little pup got to get out into the open air and stretch those tiny legs a bit.  And for a third…the wildlife!!

It was a real clinic in seeing some sensational flora and fauna, both, not to mention the interesting rock formations, too.  What really landed with me, though, were the animals.  First, we saw a few horses (they were being ridden by people up various trails, but I was way more focused on the horses than the riders).  Being a Year of the Horse baby (that’s Fire Horse, to be utterly specific…), I’ve come to really appreciate these great beasts and friends of humanity (I was also surprised, abashed, and gratified all at the same time to spot a painting of a horse on our eventual way home from the Park, on a piece of permanent city equipment near home that I’ve passed dozen of times before, but until yesterday…I’d never noticed that painting…).

In addition to the horse appearances, though, even more meaningful for me were the birds…

Now, I’ve devoted entire columns here to the concept of the Spirit Animal (or the Power Animal, or the Animal Guide — I use these terms as more-or-less synonyms for each other).  I’m happy to speak about these things in general, but I’ve been kind of reluctant to talk much about my own such connections, mainly because they’re very personal things.  I’m going to admit here, though, that one of my most overwhelmingly primary such connections is with the Raven (yes, I’m intending to capitalize that for the duration of this article — blogger’s option!).  When I was in the early stages of getting all metaphysical, I did this guided visualization aimed at revealing one’s Spirit Animal, and while I went into the exercise with some serious suspicions about what animal might be revealed, I came away surprised to find out that I’d flashed on the Raven.  This is a bird I’ve always admired, but which had not been anywhere near the forefront of my conscious mind as a possible candidate for Spirit Animal-hood for me.  That was, though, part of the reason why it seemed like such an intense result: I wasn’t just seeing what I wanted to see, you see…  And after accepting that I’d seen a Raven during this meditation/visualization, I realized that I’d actually had numerous significant contacts with this bird throughout my life at various times, yet had somehow never managed to recognize the pattern (and pattern-recognition is something I’m usually pretty good at, too).

I then went through a brief phase of questioning the result, and then worrying that the Raven might seem too cliche a “choice” of Spirit Animal (although as it’s so often said when dealing with this topic, it’s our Spirit Animals who choose us, not the other way around) — wouldn’t every Goth on the planet cite a bond with the Raven, not to mention fans of Norse Mythology (Odin, the All-Father and undisputed ruler of the Norse Pantheon, has two Raven familiars who always feature as part of his iconography…), people drawn to Native American imagery (where the Raven is viewed as a Creator-figure, a trickster on a par with Coyote, or both…), Bible aficionados (Ravens play occasional important roles, such as feeding the prophet Elijah when he’s alone in the wilderness…).  Happily, almost immediately after this phase of questioning began, though, I came upon a passage in a book I’d been reading about trance-work, in which the author, Diana Paxson, spoke of undergoing a ritual in which she was trying to meet her Spirit Animal, and a Raven appeared to her, and she then fought back feelings revolving around how cliche such a result might be for exactly the reasons I myself was tripping over…so her grapplings with the identical result and reactions thereto really helped me to just wholeheartedly accept my own result.  From that point on, I was — quietly, but surely — all about the Raven.  And they make for a pretty superlative Spirit Animal, too — if you research the meaning of the Raven in such a role, you’ll see that most sources of authority will cite the Raven as a representative of such outstanding concepts as travel between worlds, transformation, ingenuity, versatility, excellent communication, and the big one for me: Magic itself…

And on a more everyday level, they seem to love Los Angeles, too, and they appear very regularly hereabouts, which delights me greatly.  Yesterday was no exception, and they really made their presences known during our sojourn through the Park…

Just a couple of the Ravens that accompanied us on our stroll through Griffith Park yesterday...
Just a couple of the Ravens that accompanied us on our stroll through Griffith Park yesterday…

Until now, I’ve been under the impression that Ravens will mostly travel either alone or in mated pairs, and it’s their close relative, the crow, that prefers to flock in greater numbers.  Maybe Griffith Park is just a special place for them, though, as there seemed to be quite a bit of group activity going on, with gatherings in mid-air or on trees that numbered in excess of a dozen attendees.

We also saw the occasional hawk, as well, which is another bird not uncommon to LA, but which I personally see far, far less frequently.  This also cheered me as we trudged along…  And then…the Conclave!

It was like this spot that was the Secret Meeting Place of Birds!  We came upon this one area where close to 20 Ravens were decorating a few neighboring trees, filling the air with their distinctive cawing sounds, and a solitary hawk — a Red-Tailed Hawk, if I have to guess — touched down among them.  I’ve never seen so many Ravens gathered together in one place, and the Hawk was like an emissary from another tribe or nation, sent perhaps to negotiate something, or strengthen ties among their respective kinds.  It was like we were suddenly privy to this spectacular bird-event that most humans would never witness.

As my friend and I spoke briefly below the trees in question, the Ravens began to take wing, probably irritated by our human jabber.  Slightly dejected, but still feeling all suddenly super-charged by our proximity to such a remarkable gathering, I started to follow my friend along the trail again…and the Ravens came back, filling up a different tree nearby, along with the ambassador from the Hawk Nation.  Not only did they perch and begin to converse again in fairly loud voices, but more Ravens began to wheel overhead, rather close to us, I’ll add, performing this phenomenal aerial ballet.  I was kind of giddy at this point, but my friend, who doesn’t share my love of winged creatures, was starting to get a slight Tippi Hedren vibe, so we said our farewells to the Conclave of Birds, and took our leave…

Raven dignitaries alight near the Hawk representative, while my friend and I watched...
Raven dignitaries alight near the Hawk representative, while my friend and I watch…

After four hours of tramping around in direct sunlight, and on totally empty stomachs to boot, I was a bit tapped out, but I was also elated — I felt (and still feel now) that I’d been permitted in on a secret meeting of multiple embodiments of my own personal Spirit Animal (with the very cool addition of that Hawk!).  It was one of those moments where it seems that the Universe is reaching out directly to say, “It’s not all random — there’s a plan, and you’re a very welcome and important part of it.”  I’m still feeling kind of bouncy today for having experienced that, and it’s not just the sunburn talking!  I can’t recommend enough the idea of cultivating a relationship with one or more Spirit Animals if such a thing holds any appeal for you.  And if you’re interested, but not sure how to go about something like this, post a comment here or drop me  line directly, and I’d be happy to share some pointers…

For now, though, I’m off to take care of some errands, and you can bet I’ll be scanning the skies as I go!

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