Mayne Island Field Notes, December 2020

Photo: Jeffrey Scism, Flickr Creative Commons

Blustery winds and pelting November rain meant the outdoors didn’t beckon as usual, but too much time curled up with books and staring at screens was starting to make us bug-eyed, so we bundled up and headed up Mt. Parke for a bracing hike. As soon as we were in the shelter of the trees on the lower trails, the soft earthy smell of the mushrooms scattered along the way transported us to the secretive world of fungi, and the peacefulness of the forest surrounded us.

Near the top of the ridge, however, the silence was shattered by a large gang of ravens chasing each other through the tree limbs overhead, vocalising in the myriad of ways only ravens have: shrieks, caws, clonks, and clicks. Further up along the ridge we found shelter under a tree and sat down to rest and admire the panoramic views of fast-moving clouds with shards of sunlight breaking through. The dozen or so ravens now seemed to be engaging in a game of “Capture the flag”, vertical style. One would dive into the forest and come out carrying a piece of wood or strip of lichen or moss, soar up high through very strong winds, and then drop the item. There ensued a great race to recapture the treasure, mostly resulting in failure, but with a lot of noise and energetic enthusiasm. This game was still continuing as we began to head back down into the silence and darkness of the trees a good half hour later. 

Photo: Nancy Gibson

I don’t know how the young ravens slept that night after such energetic games, but I was blessed by one of my rare almost lucid flying dreams. Like the ravens, I was lifted up away from the earth with a lightness and agility never experienced when awake. This weighlessness was joy-filled and the ability to move vertically through space so unique and blissful. Waking up was like a crash landing back into the collective human misery that marks our times, but the reprieve given by nature that day and night still lingers. 


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