The Raven Trickster
Attention to detail, the words were boiling up from somewhere inside of me as I opened my eyes. Shapeless colored objects slithered in and out of my vision like a side-winding rattler. With tired eyes I tried to focus on a world that was slowly revealing itself to me. But I couldn’t grab onto anything because everything was flat, without dimension. Then, without warning, a sharp tapping came from the window; raven.
A memory flew past me. A child living in a place of magic and Grandma’s secrets about raven, I heard her speaking to me in Diné. “The Diné, The People, know raven as trickster,” she said. “When he appears we smile, but most times we throw rocks,” Grandma told me, mischief in her eyes.
“How can that be?” I interrupted, feeling confused.
“Sometimes raven’s good and sometimes he’s bad, just like us,” Grandma explained. “Remember, raven tells us to pay attention to detail,” she said. “We must be the observers of life, that’s how we find our power and wisdom. This is the Beauty Way of our people,” Grandma’s look pierced me and I took her words as truth.
Sitting with Grandma while she wove her magnificent rugs was my favorite pastime. Stories of raven always found their way into our conversation. “Raven can show his dark side when you least expect it,” Grandma said as she picked up her ball of weaving yarn. Raven was a storyteller. He was a trickster. He was a savior. He was the wind. He was the messenger.
“How many faces did this guy have?” I wondered.
When grandma saw me puzzling she warned that raven would appear when you least expected. To keep us focused on the present. “In the Diné way of life, we must stay in the present, no need to worry about the past or future,” said Grandma, “Pay attention to what’s going on right now.” Then grandma crossed her arms and I knew she meant business. Watching Grandma weave with her hands moving rhythmically and intertwining the wool, she never missed a beat. I noticed the intricate detail in her blankets. Like magic, the colors would jump out at me as she plucked and pulled at the yarn. Each blanket revealed the beauty of her spirit. She never tried to teach me the art of weaving. She just told stories and cracked jokes. We always had fun and laughed a lot.
In the summer of my twelfth year Grandma suddenly became ill and raven came to my school to tell me the news. I was swinging on the old swing set in the tiny sand lot at recess. Raven flew up and almost knocked me off the swing; I was blind-sided. I got up and started running and kept on running until I got to Grandma’s hogan. Breathing hard I moved past relatives and family friends. I pushed my way into the small bedroom where Grandma slept. She was lying on the bed and her face was drained of color. I looked down at her trying to control my tears. My only reason for living was my Grandma who was dying on that little bed. Between sobs, I heard her tell me it was time to make blankets. With a steady voice, shaking her finger at me, she told me that the blankets must carry my personal prayer. Filled with grief, I made my promise.
When Grandma died, I became numb and stumbled through a life filled with pain. Loving memories were buried under the weight of fear that turned into depression. At sixteen I ended up working at a bar in Gallup. Raven showed up at midnight on a full moon. Leaving the bar, half drunk on cheap wine, I stumbled onto the sidewalk. I saw him in the street waiting for me. The cold wind hit me and I unwillingly sobered up. Watching raven’s wings glistening, moonbeams bouncing off its feathers, I became conscious of time and place. How could I ignore this message? Raven didn’t move and I didn’t move. It was a standoff and clearly a sign of Grandma’s bull-headed spirit.
Realizing that I couldn’t deny raven and Grandma, I renewed my promise to become a weaver. Weaving became my life. People bought my blankets, but I knew in my heart that they lacked soul. Fear and doubt wove their way into my blankets from my unsettled spirit. I got angry and cursed Grandma for dying before giving me the “magic” ingredient. My life started spiraling into darkness and my promise got washed away with bitter tears. The past caught up with me and only drugs and alcohol could blot out the pain. I finally overdosed.
When I emerged from a drug-induced coma, I couldn’t believe I was still alive. Raven was there. As he tapped on the window the message from Grandma became clear, “Girl, you have got some guts trying to get out of your promise to be a weaver.” I laughed despite the pain. In my reverie I saw Grandma laughing and joking. The secret to weaving beautiful blankets suddenly became crystal clear. Each blanket must carry my personal prayer. It was my own truth that would make the blankets so special.
I returned to weaving and it became a meditation that carried me from day to day. The practice of paying attention to detail kept me from returning to the destructive spirit of alcohol and drugs. Now, I walk the Beauty Way. My name is Raven and I am a weaver.