Reflections On Entering The Indigenous Mind

When I began to experience the process of leaving my western mind and going into the Whole Mind, I had the grace of being in ancient (authentic) indigenous ceremony and community. And because I was in the tried and true ritual, I knew I would be going to another place and that I'd be returned to myself at the end of the ceremony. Knowing that my family had participated in such rituals over thousands of years gave me confidence and trust in the experience and a joy that I was being restored to something precious, even if strange to me, and that in so doing, I was healing and empowering my own life and future generations. Restoration of the ceremonies and the way of entering the mindset of my Ancestors and knowing it was their mindset, filled me with happiness and a sense of justice, peace and trust in life. Most modern people don’t have either the ceremony or tribal community. That's why I'm offering this blog.

April 27, 2009

October 22, 2009

White Raven

Before Raven was black, before Raven assumed darkness, there was a Spirit Raven, Pure White in color. This mysterious, wonderful Bird set creation in motion. White Raven Treatment Center in Anchorage Alaska, like it's namesake, takes our charred, scoriated pasts and helps us transform into the beautiful spiritual beings we are.  I dedicate these Stories to you with heartfelt thanks.

October 19, 2009

Ravens and Sea Monster in a Navajo Ceremony

I was so proud to accompany Tlingit Chief Donawaak - Austin Hammond, to a Navajo Healing Ceremony.  It was December, just before Christmas, in 1985.  A few months earlier, I had arranged a meeting between young, Navajo Healer, Hanson Ashley, a friend and Mr. Hammond.  When they met, they began a curious conversation, each telling traditional stories from their own cultures.  Coming from different regions and tribes, they spoke in their shared second language of English.  The stories went back and forth for at least two hours. I remember clearly because I needed to pick up my little girl from Daycare but didn't want to interrupt the conversation nor to miss a single word of it.

I squirmed in my chair breathing in the devils club simmering on the wood stove.  What should I do?  To interrupt a traditional story is 'to cut one's life short' yet I couldn't keep my child waiting.  As if on cue Chief Donawak, got to the part of the Dog Salmon story where the plain skinned fish is held up in thanksgiving for its sacrifice to humanity. Light streaming through the shadow of cedar and spruce trees  fall upon the fishes body, imparting beautiful terracotta, and shades of gren color to the skin. This is how the Dog fish got its blessings and charateristic markings.

But it was the old Tligit  prayer words,  Chief Donawaak spoke as he descibed the fish being lifted to the light,  that made Hanson, Navajo quiet and reserved, sit up, pencil straight in his chair.  'Those words, that you spoke,' we have those same words in our Navajo sacred language.  Its an ancient form of Navajo, few people can speak it today.' The room grew still then filled with a thick presence of love. The men looked at each other and laughed quietely; they had found the moment of relationship, never mind that it was thousands of years ago and who knows what part of North American that the Tlingit and Navajo tribes were last One People, but the Language knew and seemed happy to remind us.  Then Hanson said what seemed to be a non sequiter, 'We know about that sacred tree too and I would like you to come visit us in Navajo land, soon'.  To my utter amazement, Donawaak nodded his head in agreement.  I had no idea how this understanding had been achieved and despite questioning Hanson as we drove to pick up my little girl, what I understood was something about indigenous peoples confusion that leads to cutting down trees, bringing them in a house for Christmas.  I also realized I was taking a trip to Navajo land very soon.

That's what lead to Mr. Hammond and I flying to Arizona for a ceremony. He was Raven Chief and I had been adopted into the Ravens, maybe that's why all the mischief ensued.  It started out well, the weather lifted and our Alaska Airlines flight made it out of Juneau but when we got to Arizona, Chief Donawaak's bags did not arrive and we were headed to the Reservation, quit remote from the airport which made it unlikely we would see that bag before our short visit was over.  Then I learned that Donawaak's high blood pressure medicines and his priceless, ancient Chilkat blanket were in the case.  My heart nearly stopped.

With several long distance calls back to Alaska, we replaced his medications at a local pharmacy but there was nothing to do about his clothing and robe. And we left Flagstaff with Austin wearing only the thin maroon, golf sweater and small brim fedora he'd worn for the flight.  It was cold in the high desert, light swirls of snow blew across the hardpan and swirled about the tufts of dried grass. The winds blew through the thin walled reservation house in big drafts of bone chilling cold.  Maybe that's why I got to learn how to make a sacred fire. Austin looked over my shoulder as I chucked in shavings, kindling and pieces of mesquite into the stove and when he saw that I was about to light it, he stopped me, spoke to me about the meaning of the fire, about it's warmth and light and intelligence.  Talk to it he said, feed it and tell it your love.  I stopped, ashamed that I'd not known to do this and so grateful to be taught the right way to relate to it.  I kept that Fire going throughout out our four day stay.  In the morning, when the sun came out, we walked out to survey the dramatic vista of our Chimney Rock surroundings - enormous red fingers of Earth pointing to the sky. In the distant, still desert air, the soft bleating of sheep could be heard. When we spoke, our words hung in little clouds in the cold desert air.  Two hogans stood adjacent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs house we were hosted in.

On the second night, we entered one of the hogans for an all night ceremony designed to heal Donawaak's heart problems.  A few years earlier, he'd been fishing out on his boat and suffered not one but three deadly heart attacks. Somehow, he managed to get to shore but talked about his arms feeling like lead as he tried to tie off his boat. From that moment forward, he made a commitment to leave his successful fishing career behind and to dedicate all of his life and resources towards the creation of a Chilkoot Culture Camp to teach children of all backgrounds about the precious Tlingit culture that his Grandfather had taught him.  During his heart failure, Austin, said he remembered the words of his grandfather, "Son, this culture I've been giving to you, don't die with it. Pass it on."

What Austin didn't know is that setting up the camp would mean reclaiming traditional lands with contested jurisdiction - both the State and the Native Corporations claimed to own it.  He persevered only to be cast out of his Salvation Army Church who quoted the Bible to him, reminding Austin of the teachings to 'put aside childish things' and then divorced by his wife who stayed in the Church and remained committed to the westernizing process of the Village. This ceremony was meant to lift some of the sorrow and to heal the physical ailment.

About midnight, the Navjo Medicine man, looked at Austin and I, and said that the Spirits had shown him the missing blanket. He'd seen the blanket; deciphered the symbols on it and advised Austin not to worry the suitcase would be delivered tomorrow. He and Austin acknowledged the spirit of the river and waters encoded on the Chilkoot blanket. They seemed to be looking right through time and having a lovely conversation with Austin's long departed Shaman Grandfather who'd used the blanket in healing rituals.

As they spoke, I noticed a strange anxiety coming over me and then, a terror as I realized I was standing beneath the ocean in deep, dark, dangerous, indigo waters moving swiftly towards a huge luminous triangle.  Nothing could stop the progression of my movement or fear.  Closing in on the glowing object I saw and viscerally knew it was a single tooth of the feared sea monster, Wasco.  In a split reality moment, I glanced down at my chest; my heart was beating so hard that the calico fabric of my ribbon shirt visibly rose and fell with each throb.  I couldn't speak or ask for help because the second I saw my shirt, I was plunged back into the depths.  The huge jaw opened.  I blacked out in fear and in an instant perceived myself in a huge bubble of air floating upwards to the surface.  I had survived; I had been initiated into the Water's, into their Mystery and teachings but I didn't know that. All I knew is that I'd been scared nearly to death and when I opened my eyes in that hogan what did I see but the eyes of the Medicine Man, sweat dripping from his face and hair in wet and stringy clinging to his worn face. He'd been there with me all along; he'd seen the sea monster and me with it.

At dawn, it was clear that Austin had gotten his prayers answered and that he would have the health to complete his cultural work with the young people. I found myself interpreting the words of the Navajo ceremonialist to Austin and Austin's words back to the Navajo. Only later I realized we had all been speaking English with slight Navajo or Tlingit inflections. None of us even questioned it as we seriously moved through translation efforts.

The dying fire crackeled and popped in the sacred quiet of ceremonial dawn.  The Medicine Man told me about White Shell Changing Woman, how there was or would be a time when the Earth was dying because of too much Sun; too much fire (I understood the Story to pertain to the global environmental devastation). White Shell went on a fast to Fajada Butte where she got a message - a vision.  She gathered up her twin boys, and told them they had to go on a walk, a migration to find the life giving rains and that they must not eat anything on the way.  They walked west to the ocean but on the long journey, one son found and ate an egg and told his mother, "I'm changing.  Put me in the ocean."  She did and he transmorphed into a giagantic sea monster.  The People of the coast gave her a ride in their canoes to the 'island farthest West'.  Her Sea Monster son accompanied her canoe on the voyage.  She had promised the Navajo that when she arrived to the island that she would send back rains and to this very day, when the clouds and rain move in from the West, the Navajo say, 'It's that sacred woman.'

Then in a closing remark, almost off hand, the Medicine Man looked at Chief Donawaak and I and said, "There are four sacred mountains.  One of them, you know about and still respect in your Land.  The other is deteriorating and people are forgetting.  The third is unknown and one is beneath the waves.  This, One, beneath the waves is rising and will be seen again.  That White Raven, that's been seen and that you've been talking about is from that mountain. He's a messenger sent to tell us, 'Change.  The time is coming'.

Just before we left Navajo land, the suitcase was delivered.  We loaded it back in the car and headed for the airport.  Winging our way home to Juneau, on a nearly empty Christmas Eve flight, we wondered and laughed about lost medicines, and lost bags. Chief Donawaak, who liked to tease, leaned over and whispered conspiratorily, 'When we get back home, you take my hat and give it to Julie, who'll be picking me up, and tell her, 'We lost the medicines, we lost the bag and we lost Mr. Hammond.  This is all that is left." Then the plane wheels hit the tarmac of the ice fog enshrouded Juneau Douglas Airport and we were home.

October 14, 2009

Raven Story

     Around nine, Slakum cranked open the kitchen
window of the aging trailer home and peered into
solid black night. The ocean, only fifty feet away, was
impossible to see. Rain needled her face. Suddenly the
wind shifted; fingers of cold air darted through the open
window, scooping and scattering the pile of freshly typed
pages to the floor. Struggling to hold down what was left
of the stack and at the same time close the window, Slakum
muttered. "Damn the rain, damn these people, damn
this isolation!"
     For six days the tiny island village of Awah had been
cut off from the world. Fog hanging in the passes meant
no seaplanes and that meant no food in the store and
worse, no mail!
     "The mail", she chuckled dryly. Incredible how important
it had become. Like some pigeon in a psych experiment,
she imagined herself trekking back and forth to
the post office. Day after day, back and forth on any
pretext she'd heard a plane, like the pigeon pecking endlessly.
At least she could talk with the postmistress.
That is, until today. Walking through the door, gum
boots wet and squeaking on the muddy floor, Slakum
saw a hand printed sign, "NO MAIL YET TODAY". The
postmistress sat in the back cozily drinking coffee.
     Sighing again, Slakum finished picking up the scattered
pages. Her mind wandered back to the first days of
her marriage to Kadah. He was so gentle, strong and
bright; the first lawyer in his tribe. Leaning against the
kitchen counter she thought how new and clear her sight
had seemed, how beautiful were the snow capped mountains
and the Eagles of Alaska soaring against them.
Everything had seemed so good at first. She was confident
that the ways of her own western tribe would unite
here with these strange ocean people. Shaking her head,
she marveled at her naiveté. Surely Kadah had noticed.
He might have cautioned her.
     "Scaga, Scaga" they had called her ... witch doctor.
Praying and purifying in the backyard Sweat Lodge,
they had been mocked by the locals and heard the jeers
at the "primitive practices" of the "outside Indians".
Those taunting voices still rang in her ears. The drunks
and Christians calling names escalated to such crowds
that Kadah feared for their safety and came home early
from work one day and took down the lodge. Now only
the bare ground remained. The black hole that had been
the fire pit stared like a sad eye up into the stormy
     Now Slakum jumped. Rubbing her chilled arms, she
prayed aloud, ''The Fire! God don't let the fire be out".
Kadah was virtually marooned on the mainland, and the
kindling and wood supply was nearly used up. The few
fragments that remained were soaking wet. The fire
must not die!
     Hurrying to the woodstove, Slakum dragged the flannel
cuff of her shirt down over her hand, grabbed the hot
iron handle and threw open the stove door. Plenty of
coals left, 'she groaned with relief. Just then, a gust of
wind burst down the stove pipe spewing a cloud of ash
and dust out the door enveloping her. Coughing and
sputtering, she slammed it ... too late! Smoke alarm
buzzed its wasp voice through the hall and into the room
of the sleeping children. Seizing a big piece of cardboard,
Slakum ran through the trailer opening doors and frantically
waving at the smoke. "Please don't let the kids
wake up," she implored.
     For days Slakum waited for a chance to write. Seven
years of course work and research now only weeks from
deadline. If only it weren't for village chores - packing
wood, hauling water, washing clothes by hand. All the
things easy down south were impossible here. She put
the cardboard down and listened. The alarm was silent,
tiny snores were peaceful in the bedroom.
     "Only one more chore and I can get back to my writing"
she thought and jumped into her storm coat. Stepping
outside, she ran through the rain to the wood pile. "Good,
there is a big wet chunk left." It could smolder until
morning. She wrestled the slimy cedar into her arms and
turned to go back inside. She screamed! Someone stood
only a few feet away!
     Slakum croaked, "Who's there!" Crunching footsteps in
the gravel brought the figure nearer. Oh, it was a child!
Wet shoulders were slouched and small hands thrust
deep in her pockets. The little girl came closer. Slakum
saw she was trembling .
     "Ama! What are you doing out in this weather?" Looking
into the tear-filled eyes of the child, she knew. Her
parents must be drinking again.
     "The kids are sleeping, dear." Slakum fought her desire
to send the child away. Quickly she added, ''but you better
come in and dry off". Ama nodded and led the way up
the steps. Inside Slakum started jabbing the logs onto
the fire angrily. Impatient, fretting over this delay in her
work, she fumed. "Damn these people". Looking at the
child, cold, wet, probably sad, she thought and felt
ashamed and loving. She heard herself say. "Do you want
some hot cocoa?"
     "All right", the small voice chirped. There seemed to be
a new, little tone of hope in it.
     As the crackle of cedar fire filled the room in bright
warmth, the cocoa came to a bubble. Slakum poured two
cups and the two of them sat down on the couch. In a
while the little girl began to talk.

     They're having Bible study group down at the Church
     nearly every night now, and Mrs. Pach is so nice to me
     and the rest of the ladies too...

     Images of the stout missionary wife filled Slakum's mind
and muffled Ama's voice which seemed far away. The
last thing this child needed was those vipers on her
     Adopted at birth, Ama had been given to a couple with
drinking problems. When she was nearly four, the couple
divorced. It was then that the doctors noticed the hazing
of the girl's right eye. The cancer took the vision completely.
And the surgery which saved her life left her with
one glass eye. Recently the mother had remarried, this
time to the biggest drunk in town. With no income for
doctors, the child had to continue wearing an eye fitted
for her more than two years earlier. The other day, Ama
said, she'd turned to see what her teacher wanted and the
eye fell out right in front of everyone. The village kids
squealed with glee. They hated Ama, for her early years
in the city, for her differences and her gentleness. They
were on her like a pack of dogs at the slightest chance.
     Today, Slakum had looked out the window when Ama
turned to face her tormenters. Charging into a group of
three, the little girl fought wildly. She lost the fight and
had a big bruise on her face to show for it. But she had
fought. "Maybe now", thought Slakum, "maybe now,
they'll leave her alone". But she doubted it.
     Just then, the child's voice pulled Slakum back.

     Mrs. Pach says if I pray to Christ and go to Church we
     could get saved. My Mom and Dad could quit drinking
     and I wouldn't have to worry any more. Sometimes I'm so
     afraid for my Mom. She says, 'Ama, don't every leave me.
     I'll die if you go'. And I don't know what to do. I wish I
     could go live with my first Dad down in Portland. He
     wants me to live with him and he's good to me. But I'm
     afraid for my Mom. I tell her, "Mom, get a divorce. You
     and Al could still be friends. I'll stay with you".
     I'm afraid something is going to happen... I can't sleep
     at night. They're always fighting ... I prayed like they
     told me, but... Tonight they're really fighting. AI pushed
     my Mom against the wall and said if he caught her again
     ... And that's when I left the house. I walked up here,
     Beach Way and found this feather. See, it looks just like
     yours, so I thought I would come here.

     Looking down at the white Eagle feather clutched in the
child's hand, Slakum choked up.
     "Ama, come here. Let me hug you," she said. Holding
the girl in her arms, Slakum continued. "Ama, anytime
things are bad at home come over here". She wiped
Ama's tears. Pointing to the feather, she said,

     This feather you found, it's really good, Ama.
     Indian way, we know it is a gift from Creator.
     It's a way of letting you know you are loved.
     Most of us wait a long time for such a wonderful
     You are so young, yet you have this. What can it mean?

The woman and child talked on. Slakum sensed that
the child needed something more. Suddenly she remember
the photographs that had arrived on the last mail
     "Ama, would you like to see the pictures I took of the
rock carvings at Blue Mountain?"
      The child nodded. Searching through the piles of books
and papers, Slakum began to think... The petroglyphs.
It was the only real work Slakum had found in the village.
Looking for connections, she had finally found this
ancient, holy site. Most local people had never heard of
the rocks and fewer had ever seen them. That first trip,
as her skiff neared the site, chills swept over Slakum's
body. Without thinking she jumped from the boat,
offered tobacco and feverishly started to chalk in and
photograph. There were hundreds of designs. But there
was barely time for two visits, when fall winds and
storms made the trip over open ocean impossible. Now
only the handful of photographs remained to show for
the high hopes she had had on this discovery.
     Shuffling through the photographs, a wave of shame
swept over Slakum. "How dumb can I be?" she thought.
The single most prominent feature of the carvings was,
EYES! In her excitement, Slakum dropped a picture.
Instantly Ama snatched it up. She looked at the photo
for a long time, then asked, "What's this one?"
     For the first time Slakum saw a new aspect of the
carving. Photographed upside down, she had not recognized
the design until now. It was Raven with the sun in
his beak! "Anmean, ahmeah," she whispered excitedly,
something is happening! Shaking with a sense of the
presence of spirits, Slakum explained:

     Ama... this One is sacred. There is a very old old story
     behind it. You see, at one time, the world was in blackness.
     The only things that broke the Quiet were waves
     pounding argillite shores and the whisper of cockles on
     the beach.
          In this place, Raven created human beings and the
     loneliness was ended. But People were like shadows moving
     in the darkness... they were afraid and unhappy.
     Raven saw this and wondered how to help the people.
     But Raven is a trickster so naturally he thought of a plan
     to get light away from the man who had it.
          Changing himself into a nettle floating in the stream,
     He was swallowed by the Man's daughter, when she came
     to drink. Later, she gave birth to a beautiful boy, who was
     really Raven. The man, who was no Raven's Grandfather,
     came to love the boy very much and really spoiled him.
          So when Raven began fussing for the box that the sun
     was in, the Grandfather finally relented and let the boy
     play with it.
          Slowly Raven child slid the lid from the box. LIGHT,
     wondrous Light radiated out, penetrating the darkness.
          Quickly, the boy changed back into Raven. He seized
     the orb of Light in his beak and Flew to the smoke-hole.
     But the opening was narrow; he got stuck for a few
     moments, and that's how Raven who was white to begin
     with, turned Black... from the soot and smoke.
          When Raven broke free from the smoke-hole, he flew
     with the Light to the beach. Taking the disc, he broke it
     on a rock and threw the pieces to the sky. They became
     stars, Moon and Sun.

And that's what this rock picture is about. Raven has
two different Eyes on this carving because he Sees two
different ways. One is the regular way and the other is
the Spirit way. Raven is a Spirit Being.
     Ama jumped up from the couch. "And me, what about
me? I have two different Eyes! Do you think I could see
like that some time?"
     Fighting tears, Slakum answered.
     "Child, there is no doubt. There hasn't been a traditional
healer here in a long time. Maybe through you, the
People will See Good again... "
     The child interrupted.
     "Can I use your phone to call my Dad in Portland? I've
been trying for three days but couldn't get an answer at
his house. I'll call collect."
     Slakum nodded assent. As Ama began to dial, Slakum
picked up the cocoa cups, and walked back into the
kitchen. Washing up the dishes, she could hear Ama say:
     "Dad? Dad? I'm so glad I got you ... I tried for three
days ... Dad, do you know what my Eyes mean? They
mean I might be a Medicine person some day!"
     Hearing the joy in the child's voice, Slakum's heart
filled with pride. She mentally patted herself on the back
for finding the exact right solution to the child's problems.
But just as she began to enjoy her glory, she heard
Ama say:
     "How do I know? Dad, this OLD woman told me."
     Hands suspended in sudsy water, Slakum heard a
strange sound ... her own laughter! OLD WOMAN?!
Here she was, at 37, filled with triumph and pride - and
this little girl had burst her bubble fast! Slakum laughed
till her shoulders shook. Tears ran down her face . . .
"Raven, you got me good this time!" she chuckled.
     Hearing the receiver click down into the phone,
Slakum grinned, composed herself and rounded the corner
into the living room. "Well, "she asked, "What did your
Dad have to say?"
     Ama answered: "Well, I told him about the Raven rock
and the Eyes and how I might be a spiritual person."
"What did your Dad say?" Slakum queried.
     "He said, 'You know I believe it.''' Ama pulled on her
     "Where are you going, Ama?"
     "I'm going home. They'll be asleep now". Ama grabbed
her feather and the two stepped out into a still night. The .
rain and wind were gone. Bright stars glittered in an
inky sky.
     As Ama walked away, Slakum handed the photo to
her. "Keep it; it belongs with you."
     Slakum waited and listened to the small feet slapping
the wet earth of the road. When she heard Ama's front
door slam, Slakum climbed back up to the trailer. Standing
on the top step, thinking about the night and her
unexpected promotion to "Elder", she thought she heard
the words of Nana, Kadah's 100 year-old Grandmother:

     And the Way the Old People used to tell it
     He was a wonderful Bird!

“And I believe it," she said to herself and the cold listening,
night air.

~ A special thanks to Mary Tall Mountain for her
editing and to Viola Morrison, Haida Elder for her help.

October 11, 2009

White Raven Dawn

The single prop seaplane engined roared its defiance against the saltwater pull on its pontoons.  Swaying slightly, like a cat winding its body to pounce, it finally broke free, fell back and broke free again from the water. Skyborn the small craft lurched, plunged and bounced its way on the cross winds and upcurrents that filled the mountain passes of Southeast. I was accutely aware of the danger.  Tyee airlines schedule went like this; 'Take a seat. It's socked in now; we'll try in an hour if it clears." But everyone knew the deal.  With no roads or other access to the island communities we counted ourselves lucky to have these brave, skilled and hopefully, non alcoholic pilots.

My whole body felt toxic from greasy 'town' restaurant food, and the 5:30 AM departure dictated by yesterday's, Bad Weather, flight cancellation.  With little sleep and anxiety over our 'try', my body filled with adenaline.  Just forty minutes to go and I'd be home; I kept looking at my watch trying to be anywhere but in this plane.  Lurch, bounce, surge, drop!  We cleared the town of Ketchikan and made our way over open ocean, a longer but more reliable routing and with less turbulence.  I uttered a small prayer of thanks.

Overnight, temperatures had dropped; rain had turned to snow and draped the hundreds of inky green, cedar spired, islands in a soft blanket that extended to and wrapped around the shorelines as if to lift them from the ocean.  Looking down, from the smudged plane window, the tiny islands floated above the dark, silvery-indigo North Pacific waters.

In this region of scattered, isolated small Native villages, electifying news was spreading.  A White Raven, not an albino, but one with blue eyes had been spotted in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Until this time everyone thought the White Raven, creative spirit, existed only in the realm of ancient time and oral history.  The islands were abuzz with the implications. What could it mean?

My Raven reverie was broken as we hit a cloud, heavy with moisture.  The whole world went white.  I was scared - what if we hit a mountain? But it was so still and peaceful. Something shifted, a sense of hyperalert reverence came over me.  Softly, imperceptibly, yet instanteously, the cloud became shimmering luminousity and filled the cabin with light.  Unseen the sun had arrived. Dawn, the clouds parted and I beheld the colors of creation infusing the seascape below. Like cellophane wrapping, lavender, pink and finally gold sirrus surrounded the waters  and islands that reflected the colors back, as if willing, with every fiber of being, to give back, to say, YES, to life.  Tears slipped down my face as I whispered, White Raven, I love you.

October 10, 2009

Raven Spirit Stories

The blue eye of White Raven takes me in as I write. Thirty years have passed since I lived in my mobile home in the boreal forest of Southeast Alaska. It was there I met Raven both black and white and each gave me stories.

Shoop , shoop, shoop. Then, picking up speed as if to urge me out of b ed, shoop-shoop-shoop-shoop-shoop, went the black leathery feet across the roof.
I was writing my doctoral dissertation, had small children and no money at all. Each day, I'd walk down to the stream, breathing in the cool, cedar infused mists. The stream banks had been
devastated by plow, ax and heavy equipment in the name of building a bridge, but it did provide an opening for me through heavy underbrush normally impassible. I'd developed a practice of writing each day while the kids were in daycare and school, and then in the early afternoon, go down to the stream to pray and clear my mind. I was overwrought, fragile and stressed. Walking to the water, I stood looking across the steam where a huge raven, whose black iridescent blue, green and gold, strutted about. No problems for him.

'Isn't there a Raven who would help me?' I implored aloud, with no intention of doing so, and dropped to my knees in grief. Instantly a sound like a tea towel being snapped clean, burst out from behind me. I jumped to my feet just as the Raven crossed the stream headed towards me. He stopped, suspended midair, fanning his wings towards my upturned face. I raised my arms in prayer, tears streaming down my face. Raven dropped to my chest level and began a slow circle around my body. A second Raven, who later, I realized had been standing behind me the whole time and whose wings being quickly opened had created the sound, joined the first raven. They circled me, only a foot or so from my body, so close I could have touched them, three times in total aerial cacophany. Upside down, sideways and right side up they flew. Then satisfied took off, one behind the other towards the inlet.

In utter wonderment I ambled down stream to the path home. Looking down at the water, in a shallow depression was a hand sized cloud of gold dust! The answer to my prayers. But then, looking at the devastation of the stream and land about me, and considering the implications of finding and by law reporting, a requirement for cashing it in, the source of my gold, I turned away, shaking with effort and walked back to the house with the best gold of all, integrity.