Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been having this unusual-for-me dream featuring a raven, a pebble beach, and a moment of complete transformation. I am not sure if this is guiding me to accept that yes (!); it is really time for holiday; or if there are bigger things I should be paying attention to.
Some of the coastal people talk about how Raven used his wisdom and tricks to bring the salmon South. I worked for a couple of years (on-and-off) in land-claims research. In hindsight, it was an amazing job: I got to burrow in archives and historical map rooms, and met sometimes with elders to trace traditional land use.
So, tonight I tracked down notes from a meeting I had with an elderly Salish woman who told me this story about Raven. (It’s commonly found, so I feel o.k. sharing it here).
A long time ago the Beaver people used to keep all the salmon to themselves. The rest of the coast went hungry. So, creative trickster-like, Raven turned himself into the young child of the Beaver chief. He waited until the day he was old enough to be told the secret of where the salmon had been hidden up the river. That night, he transformed back into his raven form and neatly rolled up the secret salmon, river and lake to take back to Haida Gwai. But, the bundled stream and river was so heavy that the salmon splashed out here and there, and when Raven took breaks to rest in trees, hundreds of fish would escape. Horrified by the loss of their hidden salmon the Beaver people transformed themselves back into Beavers. They gnawed down every tree in Raven’s path; hoping to tire him out so much he wouldn’t be able to continue. Meanwhile, the fallen trees formed natural dams creating the rivers, streams, and creeks we know today. Things couldn’t help themselves, they just kept flowing. Yet, the beavers couldn’t stop Raven and he arrived back home with just enough fish for everyone to feast until the end of time. Some for the Haida, some for the people along the coast, some for the Beavers. No longer forced to guard such an immense secret, the Beaver people eventually forgave Raven and began to reach out, marrying and meeting for feasts.
This story makes me think about the cyclical periods of feast and famine in our own life. In a week where some of the harsher elements of human existence are so clearly evident: mass shootings, land-mines killing a dozen schoolgirls in Afghanistan, news of death in a good friend’s family; I wonder how Raven’s patience, impetuous to share, and creative problem solving could also be good metaphors for thinking about better ways to support people with mental illness, encourage gun control, and come together to build genuine communities.