Brought to you by Adventures in the Wilderness,™ a division of Book-In-A-Drawer Publications.™
After my conversation with Deer, I walked the fifteen or twenty minutes from the lake back to my campsite. I made some tea and moved about while enjoying the tea and the beginnings of evening.
Soon I found myself exploring what had bothered me about this connection business. It was good to feel connected with Deer and the wilderness, yet I realized there was this issue about intimacy.
As I was pondering, I heard movement directly above me, in the tree closest to me. On the lowest limb and maybe three feet above my head was a raven who was behaving as though it was deliberately trying to get my attention.
“And what do you think you’re doing marking this area,” asked the raven, when I looked up puzzling at what was going on?
This was a bit much, but I had learned earlier to not impose my normal view. The raven could have been referring to my campsite itself or to my propensity to mark an area some two hundred feet or so around my campsite—and yes, I mean mark it like the local four-legged beings would. Whichever, the raven seemed somewhat agitated by my presence.
I took a deep breath and offered a reply. “I thought I’d make my presence clear—so as not to seem like I’m being secretive. I don’t want to come up on the fauna like I’m stalking them.” That was both true and a good reply to the raven I thought.
“But this is not your territory to mark,” said the raven, though it did not say it roughly.
“Well, we cannot exist without leaving some sort of a mark,” I offered equitably.
“Humph,” grunted Raven, “there are marks and then there are marks.”
“Are you grumpy about something, Raven,” I inquired? “It is clear that I am here as much as it is clear that not much of my presence will remain when I’m not here—it is not as though I’m building a shopping mall.”
“Now that you mention it, I am a bit grumpy,” said Raven. “You people are running around in the wilderness as though it is not a wilderness and as though you are claiming the entire territory (Raven drew out the word ‘territory’ very deliberately).”
I smiled having had the conversation with Deer about connections. “I understand. Though it is the wilderness, I notice a lot of human trash left behind—in fact I pack out not only my own trash, but that of others I find. There is not much, but there is more than there should be.”
Raven seemed to relax. “I know you, I’ve watched you camp here over the years. Though you ‘mark’ the territory and though it is clear you’ve been here, you do pay some attention. I suppose it is clear ravens have been here as we also leave our mark. However, as you don’t live here, I—and others of us—don’t much welcome your kind.”
“If you have indeed watched me, you know that I ask permission of the areas I move around in. You also should know that you are not threatened, your routine is just altered. Perhaps that is a good thing.”
“Take that, Raven,” I thought to myself. I smiled broadly. “Besides, you like these connections, eh Raven? Why else would you converse with me who is in the middle of your routine?”
Raven now seemed to get a bit more serious. I realized that I had not “won” the discussion, I had merely gotten his undivided attention.
“Yes, connections are pretty rare, even among ravens, much less with humans. Okay—so I noticed you pondering—puzzling. We have discussed what ails me, what is troubling you,” Raven inquired?
This was getting stranger. “Well,” I began hesitantly, “I had a conversion with a deer today about connections. As you noted, connections are rare and it is true the conversations with Deer and you are amazingly helpful in feeling that connectedness. However, I was just wondering about intimacy with an unrelated being of our own kind. If true connections are rare, intimacy of that sort is rarest still.” I shook my head and looked down, one part amazed and one part saddened.
Raven studied me for a while. “Yet you beings ‘marry’—is this not true?”
“It is true in terms of an institution, and of ceremony, but it is not so true in terms of a deep interweaving between souls,” I opined.
“Are you thinking too much,” Raven cawed as though laughing? “What are you trying to turn up by turning over these questions—these ponderings?”
“Fair enough, Raven,” I conceded. “I’m thinking there is much more than there appears. It feels like there is some doorway between this and—well, something that is much more nurturing and elevating.”
“Hmmm, thought Raven out loud, “I suppose you could have a point. So what if there is another reality?”
“Well,” I said, “I get the feeling if we can shift attentions, we shift realities, just like we’ve done to have such conversations as these. So the point is not really about realities, I suppose, it is about attentions.”
Raven seemed to ponder for a bit. “All right, to have this conversation, we shifted attention—or it was shifted for us. Are you trying to control attention and—to get back to what is ailing you—these intimacies you are speaking about?”
I did not want to launch into some long-winded spiel, but the way this was headed seemed to require more explanation. “All right—look,” I began, “you and I and deer and many other beings seem to ‘know’ something about what feels right and what does not. So we look for what is ‘better.’ Humans tend to call it heaven and hell. And we tend to talk about the doorway between the two and what it takes to obtain passage.”
“Okay—and your point is…,” Raven asked?
“The point, Raven,” I continued, “is that the odds of a Purgatorian finding a Purgatorian to help find Paradiso are possible, but extraordinarily slim. And why would a Paradisian be intimate with a Purgatorian? So it is as though Purgatorians are stuck with each other, but stuck won’t help find Paradiso.”
Raven stared at me—kindly it appeared. “Maybe the wilderness is not such a good idea for you,” Raven joked. “This is what I think I heard: You’re not this Paradisian being, but you feel it would be better. You’re not so capable on your own of finding this crossing, so you think it will take another to help. But the problem is this other person must also want to find the same thing. That is the intimacy you’re addressing?”
“Yes, I think so—and for me it is an unrelated woman,” I replied, thankful that Raven was tracking this weird conversation.
“And you’re saying such a woman is not so common,” Raven asked?
“I’m saying that many acknowledge the issue of transcendence, but it seems to me there is some real work to do, not just some acknowledgement. So people—women and men—ask for help, sure. But asking is not enough—that is a bit like a panhandler coming up to someone who is working and asking them for a handout. If that’s all someone brings, it isn’t enough. One has to ask how they can help and to be very clear what the point of the work is.”
“Ahhh, and having asked, and having desire to transcend, they must now stick with the search for this doorway you’re describing,” Raven added. “So, connectedness is like an acknowledgement of shared reality, but intimacy is acknowledgement about the work to obtain passage,” Raven stated.
“Yes, I think that’s it,” I sighed. “It’s all very elusive and I’m apparently not built to go in search of these kinds of passages alone. Some are, we do have stories about those who did and their success at doing so. But such portal-searching experts who can go it alone are very rare.”
“Well,” offered Raven, “there is no reason to bang your head against a wall unless it leads to you realizing there’s no reason to bang your head against the wall.”
“Ugh. What are you saying, Raven—that intimacy either will or won’t be and that’s it? I suppose you could say the same thing about transcendence, eh?” I was clearly frustrated.
“You said it yourself, you have to be very clear what the point of the work is,” Raven replied. “You are here in the wilderness, in part, to address your frustration with your work—or the outcome of your work. You cannot blame yourself or others, you can just work and rest, and recapitulate, and smile. I suspect the ease of your ability to smile has something to do with this Heaven or Paradiso that you spoke about.”
I laughed out loud. “It is not about blame—that itself is a tributary. However, perhaps I get caught up in tributaries sometimes when others blame me for the failure of intimacy. And I guess the same is true of them if I do likewise. Maybe, as Purgatorians, we are mostly consumers of guilt. However, if we’re clear about it all, intimacy just didn’t manifest in our particular cases—that is the true thing, the rest is just interpretative, though not unimportant.”
“So don’t lose your way—I suspect that is also part of this Heaven or Paradiso, eh?” Raven actually seemed to smile, though when I thought about it, I didn’t know how that was physically possible. But then again, all of this seems impossible.
Raven seemed to turn its attention to the environs. “Stillness is a gift—a joy,” Raven said after a while. “Perhaps nothing is lost, only unrecognized,” Raven continued. “What opportunities do we miss because we’ve ‘decided’ how the world is, and yet it is easy to see how much we need to decide how the world is.”
I was thoughtful for a few moments. “Perhaps fear and wanting and theater are what we impose on our reality in a somewhat crude attempt to re-establish connections and intimacies we never lost, but have not yet found.” I was breathing so much better.
“Thank you Raven,” I said. “I may not have found what I consider necessary to find, but it is good to remember what I seek is not lost. I will have to work to not let my motivation turn into agitation. Well, at least I will try and remember not to confuse the two.”
“Thank you as well,” Raven said in return. “I notice that I am less grumpy, and that you are not such an intrusion after all.”
I laughed again—a good and genuine laugh. “It is one of our finest pursuits when we honestly attempt to engage in that wondrous and magical realm of articulating reality—and to behave accordingly.”
With that, Raven bobbed up and down on the limb a few times, became still, cocked his head at me for a moment, and then lifted off. Turning back, before flying off into the evening, Raven said, “And to behave accordingly…yes, indeed.”
“So much magic that is not really magic at all. So much aloneness, that is not aloneness at all,” I thought/felt, after Raven had gone. It had been an amazing day. However illusive I thought/think true intimacy really was/is, at least there were connections. Oddly, for all of our need to be free, to maintain options and yet to transcend, there was a strange peace in knowing though while we are not entirely flotsam and jetsam, we are not entirely in charge.
Note: No animals or humans were harmed in any way as a result of the conversation or its aftermath. Furthermore, this story is entirely fictional, though used to tell a truth, and any resemblance to any person or raven, living, dead, or somewhere in-between, is purely coincidental.