Good Advice from a Raven

My life philosophy summed up…on a bookmark.

I was in Death Valley National Park in February for the second year in a row. I spent about a week exploring some of the less visited parts of the park, including Ibex Dunes and the Racetrack. I’m really loving having a truck camper for my winter travels rather than the big fifth wheel I used to haul around. It really makes it easier to explore and to camp comfortably in remote places while waiting for changes in weather or light for photography.

I did spend a little time at Furnace Creek, which is the center of tourism in the park. In addition to having two meals at the Inn at Furnace Creek‘s excellent restaurant, I visited the Ranger Station. I had some questions about roads and camping and there’s nothing better than asking a ranger. While I was in there, I took a look at some of the gift shop items. I’m always on the lookout for small educational items for my neighbor’s autistic grandson — I got him some neat science exploration items at the North Cascades National Park last year — and odds and ends to help me remember the trip.

I was feeling more spendy than usual that day, mostly because rumors were flying about the Trump administration cutting budgets for National Parks and selling off public land for private use. I wanted to support the parks beyond buying my annual pass every year. I picked out a t-shirt and a refrigerator magnet and a book about night photography. And then I saw the “Advice” bookmarks.

I need to point out that I very seldom read printed books these days. I’ve come to prefer ebooks and have been making use of the ebook loans available from the two libraries I’m a member of. So a bookmark is a very silly thing for me to buy.

But what captured my attention on the bookmarks was the bullet point pieces of “advice.” I looked at a few of them and agreed that many of the points were things I believed and would share with friends as advice. But each of them also shared a few points that I didn’t necessarily agree with. For example, “Advice from a Tree” suggested “Sink your roots into the Earth.” Anyone who knows me can verify that I never do that. Indeed, I get bored wherever I am after about 10 years. “Advice from a Bat” included “Enjoy the nightlife.” Again, anyone who really knows me knows that I’m a morning person and seldom indulge in late night activities.

bookmark.jpg“Advice from a Raven” was different, though. Each of its seven points rang true with me:

  • Be curious. I am always asking questions and trying to learn new things.
  • Use your wits. I enjoy solving problems — stay tuned for the upcoming blog post on how I recently solved my water problem — and thinking things through.
  • Don’t be a picky eater. Do I even need to explain this? I’ll try anything at least once.
  • Take time to play. Half a year should be enough time, eh?
  • Be adaptable. When life serves me lemons, I make lemonade. I’ve been served a lot of lemons over the past ten to fifteen years and have reinvented myself as necessary to move forward.
  • Make your voice heard. I think I’ve taken this one too seriously at times; voicing my opinion has occasionally gotten me in trouble. But if you don’t speak up, how are people to know what you really think? Honesty is the best policy.
  • Don’t let life ruffle your feathers. This one took some learning, but I got some pretty good lessons about five years ago, continuing until recently. I used to get angry, but now I don’t. This actually reminds me of another quote I saw somewhere: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

It was worth $3 to remind me not only of this good advice for anyone, but of my 2017 Death Valley adventure. So I bought it.

I’ve always liked ravens. They are one of the most intelligent animals. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat quietly in a remote, off-trail location at the Grand Canyon, just watching them fly or interact with each other. And how many times I’ve heard the sound of the wind in their wings in the utter silence of my old northern Arizona vacation cabin.

I don’t often see ravens here. We have magpies instead. They’re prettier but don’t seem to have the same personality.

If you’re interested in seeing other bookmarks and souvenir items in this series, check out the shop at Your True Nature website.

15 thoughts on “Good Advice from a Raven

  1. They are smart birds all right, perhaps a bit too much so when it comes to our chickens. The only treat we can feed our flock that the ravens won’t bully them out of is lettuce, which the chickens love but the ravens couldn’t care less about. Anything else (especially leftover people food scraps) will find the ravens taking the lions share unless we stand there to oversee the process. Even then, the pair of them that has “adopted” our backyard will tag-team the process so that one of them is always behind us, out of view, where it can steal and stash as much of the good stuff as possible before the chickens eat it. We’re hoping that keeping the ravens around will help make our place less attractive to the eagles, since the two don’t get along very well. The eagles have definitely shown interest in coming to eat with the chickens, but it’s not the scraps they’re interested in! There’s a lot more going on between the ears when it comes to the ravens, it didn’t take long for them to establish themselves as the top of the pecking order even though the chickens probably out-weigh them by double. They can be pretty entertaining at times too.

    • The eagles will take off with your chickens. I just helped a neighbor put chicken wire over the top of her chicken enclosure to protect them from air attacks. My coop is set up to be just about fully enclosed. The magpies — which seem easily spooked — don’t bother the chickens, but other small birds share their scratch.

      I’m getting ready to build a brand new chicken coop from scratch. Almost done with demolition of my old coop. Looking forward to getting the 18 chicks out of my garage and into their new outside home. Maybe this time next week, if I’m lucky.

      I do miss the ravens.

    • It’s only a matter of time until we lose one to either an eagle or a hawk, but that’s the price of letting them free-range. We may change our mind on how far we let them roam based more on the damage to our garden though. The younger girls in our flock are much more into the scratch n peck routine, and are becoming formidable garden vandals. They’ve already dug up a number of our tulip bulbs and it’s not even spring yet!

  2. As Sean says, ravens are very clever. All corvids are bright but ravens are the Nobel prize winners.

    Maria, I read Bernd Heinrich’s wonderful book “Ravens in Winter” a few years ago. You might be able to find it as an ebook. It is certainly still in print. He shows how they interact with Wolves to exploit deer, elk etc. Ravens can see dead deer from altitude but their beaks cannot penetrate a tough elk carcass. In Canada and the northern US, they form raven-wolf teams for mutual benefit. The ravens find a carcass and then find a wolf pack to act as ‘can-openers’ for the meat they want to eat. Wolves have first feed, of course, but the Ravens then have access to a big protein source. Heinrich says that the wolves see the Ravens circling over a patch of forest and know that it is worth following their signs.
    This is not a cross- species ‘friendship’ of course, but the two smart species have read eachother’s behaviour.

    As a kid, my dad took me and my sister to the Tower of London. He knew one of the Yeoman Wardens (Beefeaters). I met some of the ravens wandering in the enclosed garden. I fed and touched one of the glossy black birds. It was a magical experience for an eight year old. They are big birds. They are not shy, they check you out.
    Four years ago I exchanged loud “quork” calls with the free-living ravens of Salt Spring Island, BC.
    Sean, I have seen ravens in Alaska too, I wish your chickens good luck!

    • That sounds like a neat book. I’ll see if I can track it down. I doubt by library will have it, but I might splurge on Amazon.

      I used to have a pet parrot — an African Grey — who was also very smart. Would love to have a wild pet raven.

    • We’ve got both ravens and crows up here, and they seem to have territories where they each keep to their areas. The ravens have cherry-picked the best scavenging areas, where the trash pickings are richest. We have exactly one chain/franchise restaurant in town, a McDonalds, and the biggest ravens I’ve ever seen are always there scrounging for french fries and food. They’ve got a routine where they can get into and out of the parking lot trash bins by taking turns. Since they can only open the flap from the outside, one will delve around inside for a while, then pop out when another one opens the flap for its own turn.

      One thing that newcomers to Alaska learn very quickly is that you can’t leave garbage bags unattended in the back of your truck, unless you want your trash scattered all over the parking lot. Ravens can make a hell of a mess in very little time given access to even a corner of a trash bag, they’re strong enough to pull it out through even small cracks, and they’ll spend hours doing it if they think there’s a payoff.

    • That is a brilliant observation. Heinrich would love that.
      I was talking to some Canadians recently about the demise of the polar bears. They were amazed they were endangered. One guy from the Hudson Bay area said that if you go to the trash dump at Churchill you can see a queue of polar bears waiting their turn. I hope his tale is not apophyrical.

  3. One of the very few things about getting older is that, once you turn 62, you’re eligible for an Annual Pass fro Senior Citizens in the National Parks. I wonder if that will be going away as money is cut?

  4. I think you do all those statements on the book mark but when I read that you think you don’t “sink your roots into the earth”, I disagree. It doesn’t say you have to do it for long and I immediately thought of your gardening, bee keeping, your home’s foundation, your fence and so on. And I’m certain you are an environmentalist and care deeply about our “earth”. So there!

    • Good point. I’m a builder, that’s for sure.

      But I don’t get so attached to the land or my home that I can’t uproot myself (so to speak) when I see someplace more interesting to live.

  5. So I am confused. I see you are selling the Turtleback on Craigslist. Are you going to get a lighter truck camper for next season, or are you planning on something different altogether? It would be interesting to know what is driving the change.

    • Yep, I’m going slightly lighter. I already picked it out and put a deposit on it. Slightly newer, about 400 pounds lighter, no slide, generator, or solar panel. (I have a portable panel.) I have 6 weeks to sell this one. I’ve been getting a lot of calls and fully expect to have it sold within a month.

What do you think?