I'm sitting here at a local coffee house watching the raven ballet. There is lavender-jasmine tea steaming fragrantly at my elbow and a smooth gray overcast behind the mountains, fine and soft as flannel. The mountains themselves are half-clad in snow, patterned in Wedgwood and slate, growing whiter toward their crowns. There is a breeze, and eight ravens are riding it where it sweeps up behind the hill. They spiral in a group and then break into sets, each pair flying in tandem so matched that it appears they run on a single mind, one thought divided into two bodies.
When they break from the group, they side-slip in pairs, looping up and circling, swooping this way and that, serpentining toward earth as falling leaves do. Then they soar up again, one bird flipping upside down so that they can lock toes and spiral down, linked together in aerial dance. They are grace spinning toward earth, breaking apart only to skim high on the updraft again, banking and wheeling, trimming their wings to match each other in flight. They fold themselves back into the pattern with the other pairs of birds, playing on air. They sweep their dark wings hard against the sky, driving upward. They level out, cresting the peak of the updraft, and hang motionless for a long moment before they begin to glide and dip and wheel again.
An eagle happens into the updraft and the ravens scatter, each pair sloping down the wind to another place.
The eagle flies alone for a time, floating almost motionless as he (she?) masters the wind. The light is diffuse through the overcast, but even so, the white fan of the eagle's tail is brilliant against the soft grey of the sky. They are a heavier silhouette, the eagles; broader of wing, deeper of keel. I am close enough to see one feathered leg reach down, ruddering against the sky to hold him in place for a long moment. He wheels in ponderous grace and lazily he sweeps his powerful wings once, twice. Once more, and the slow beat of his wings has taken him away over the bare tree tops so that I can no longer see him.
And now the ravens are back, appearing as if by magic from the reaching lattice of the naked birch twigs. They weave back together, tracing an intricate plaid against the sky. They perform their spiral communion again, black chevrons against the sky, rising like sparks cast heavenward from a Samhain bonfire. They flirt and soar, lighting momentarily in the highest branches of the birch, only to let the wind lift them up and toss them high again.
Then, from one moment to the next, they are gone, vanished like smoke on the breeze. But they'll be back, seeking the wind: The temple of ravens.