As I began this year I had an encounter with a flock of pigeons which lifted my heart unexpectedly and then I found a feather on my doorstep. And so “Taking Flight” became my image for the year ahead. On my recent pilgrimage, winged ones – both avian and angelic – were significant symbols for me, appearing to me constantly during my travels and reminding me of that heart-transcending moment months before.
The crow in particular became significant. I have always loved these black “glossy and rowdy” creatures, and since moving to Seattle over six years ago I have become even more enchanted by these ubiquitous, wise, and wily ones who are at the heart of Northwest Native American Creation stories. Raven is both trickster and bringer of light to the world. In the story of St. Benedict’s life, we learn that he had a pet crow who one day saved his life from poisoning and so Benedict is often depicted with this black bird at his side.
During my pilgrimage crows were present in all three parts of my triptych journey – from the time in Rome to enter the world of St. Benedict more deeply, to the cemetery in Vienna where my father is buried, to the landscape of Ireland where on the anniversary of my mother’s death and on the very last day of my journey, hundreds of crows danced in the sky above me.
Now, as I take my morning walks each day, I greet crows as my ammas and abbas – those wise ones who dwelled in the desert and pilgrims would follow seeking a word from them. I ask for my word and in the cacophony of caws I hear simply one – “soar.”
(Crow photos taken in Rome, Vienna, and Ireland)
© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts