The Raven’s Association with the Tides
By Joseph Parish
It took us hours to ultimately stumble upon a comfortable fishing point while visiting the far Pacific Northwest, but we eventually located what we deemed to be the “Cream of the Crop.” Together, Kris and I sat peacefully upon the rock which overlooked the ocean and carefully baited our hooks. On occasion we would hear our stomachs growling as we started fishing in anticipation of our catch in the hopefully near future.
We must have sat fishing at that location for roughly 20 minutes and experienced a few nibbles on the bait, but we were determined not to given up the hope for a tasty catch. Unexpectedly we hear some clattering from within the nearby brush. We first looked at each other and then gawked at the slightly moving bushes.
From within the vegetation we could make out a lone man slowly making his way towards us with a wondrous catch of fish in his hands. “Hello,” said the man as he smiled and loomed closer. “Been fishing here for long?”
He had an accent of which I could easily make out to be comparable to the Tsimshian people found up here in Alaska. We smiled back and replied in a friendly manner that we had only been here for a short time.
The gentlemen motioned for us to join him in eating his catch for which we were actually glad to oblige since we had not been doing so well with our own rod and reel. We followed him to his camp and he quickly started a fire to cook his vast catch on. As we sat around the campfire the stranger finally introduced himself. He provided his name as Eric Thundercloud and motioned that he was from the nearby Gitando tribe. He bragged of how he came here often to catch fresh fish for himself and his friends. We returned the courtesy of introductions and watched as the fish cooked on the hot coals.
The area of the forest where we were now located had an abundance of bird life thriving within the overhead trees. As the day wore on it was not unusual to behold a raven or two flying by as we merely sat and watched them. Eric had been observing us and announced how he was so in debt to the Raven for his daily catch of fish and clams. At this remark Kris and I must have looked a bit confused so Eric felt obligated to explain his words further.
He explained “Many years ago the tide all of a sudden failed to go in and go out which caused much concern to the people of his tribe. The waters of the ocean remained at such a high level that it covered a major portion of the shore for days at a time while the clams and seaweed as well as other ocean food creatures were hidden deep within the water. Under conditions such as this his people were starting to go hungry and a few began to die.
The Raven sitting comfortably atop his tree saw what was happening to the people below and became very concerned. “These actions are not the way things should be,” he commented to himself. No sooner had the Raven said this then he put on his black blanket of feathers and set off on a course along the coast line scrutinizing the tide as he went. The Raven finally arrived at the home of an old lady who just so happened to be holding the tide line tightly within her hands. Raven quickly concluded that as long as this old lady held the tide line then the ocean level would remain high. Being the brave creature that he was the Raven openly walked into the woman’s home and saw her sitting on her rug with a firm grip upon the tide-line. Raven nonchalantly walked in and sat down on the rug across from her.
“Aha,” he proclaimed, “Those clams must have been the best ones I have ever eaten.”
“What clams are you talking about?” cranked the old lady.
Raven simply avoided answering her but merely patted his stomach to show how full he was and commented, ”Oh my it was just to simple to pick up those clams that I must have eaten far too many.”
These statements did not make the lady very happy and she was quickly taken to moments of excitement. “That can not be so,” she rang out as she attempted to look beyond Raven to the high ocean outside her window. Unfortunately for her Raven had her view blocked. In her attempt to see better she stood up and then leaned past Raven to look out the window. About that time the bird shoved her so hard she fell out the window. As she was falling Raven managed to throw some dust into her eyes causing her to go blind. In an instant she released the tide-line and the tide quickly rushed out to sea leaving an abundance of clams, crabs and other good things to eat readily available.
Within moments Raven was out the window and gathering as much claims as he could eat. When he was completely full he started gathering more to take home with him. All the nearby humans and other animals were busy doing likewise along the beach. Each was wildly thanking Raven for the good food and for what he had done.
Raven finally arrived back to the home of the old lady and she shouted, “Raven I know it was you. Please heal my eyes to allow me to see once more. ”
Raven sat and thought about this for a moment and then he said “I will heal your eyes only upon the condition that you will promise me to let out the tide-line twice each day. Without such an act the people cannot survive and they should not have to wait so long to obtain their food from the beach.”
“Agreed,” said the old lady. Raven then washed her eyes out and once again she could see. And so said Eric that is why the tide comes and goes every day. It is because the Raven forced the old lady to let go of the tide-line which she held.
By this time the fish were finished cooking and Kris and I merely looked at each other and occasionally we would catch the other party glancing skyward at the raven.
Copyright @2010 Joseph Parish