Olga Gubanova. Essay. Raven

Olga Gubanova's essay about a raven

I walked along the front of the building where my family rented an apartment. It was near a river and close to that city's sole sand beach. Somebody used to cut the grass. When it was done in the middle of summer, the grass stopped growing. At least in that climate. It withered. Densely covered by short dry sticks the lawns remained the same and smelt the same for the rest of the summer. By heat and an unknown waisted land.

After this you couldn't walk on any lawns. Summer suggests sandals, but dried grass is stiff and sharp like blunt knives. It doesn't cut, it tears the skin. Such wounds on the open areas of feet are enduring.

There, on cutting sticks, between the concrete wall and a pavement, a tremendous black bird with extended wings lay. I was sure that it was a raven, however I couldn't say that its colour was exactly raven's black. But it was still black. It was the most dark and dense black I have ever seen. I could compare it later only with black clothes and hair of the refined Italians whose black was very specific. The raven's plumage was stretched like a composition of open black fans. Somewhere it was covered by grayish areas of a discoloration as if by a mold. Nevertheless, it was such the dark object in the city in the middle of the melting summer that its body was like an opening in the reality. Like a black liquid shadow of something on burned by sun grass. A hole without volume. Despite obvious outlines of the black, bright black, it was hard to distinguish details.

I guessed that if I had lain on the thorny grass carpet its wingspan would have been equal to my height.

And I thought that it was dead, but it definitely had died beautifully. Wings were open, almost symmetrically, every separate feather was like a black plate. Black as the mixture of a monsoon and charred till the last fibre wood. Probably it had been a very clever bird, because it was able to control its posture even at the last moment. Its pose was like that of a straight and noble human being.

I began to approach slowly. I noticed eyes. The eyes happened to be open. They might as well be closed. They were black, without any expression. Eyes like shape, not like content. I had been looking at its eyes, because they were impossible to look into, and at the certain step of this careful pace on the vertical grassy knives I noticed that I had just glanced into them. Their expression changed. I was bestowed by meaning in the eyes of the tremendous old bird. It was an expression of time. Definitely not fear and not annoyance. A flash of attention. Maybe it sighed slightly or it moved a little. I understood that despite the fact that I hadn't desired exactly this, I was losing my chance to touch it, so I fastened, I bowed, reaching, and I almost touched a fringe of one of its outstretched feathers. Maybe a centimetre between the edge of the right black wing and the tips of my fingers. This black hole in the summer did have claws. Coaly. It changed position slightly, then moved aside and instantly took off, very easyly. Without hastle, just easy. It was very strong and graceful big bird.

I realized that it had been drying its plumage in the bright sun. It probably wanted to kill some parasites. I believe it didn't like rain. I wouldn't say that it didn't love people. It contemplated them, made conclusions. But cold rain was more annoying than the whole of mankind. It landed not so far away from where it had been and stretched its wings once more. A bit different posture. I didn't try to touch it again.

It is interesting that Scandinavian god Odin was associated with two ravens. These birds flew around Earth then came back to Odin, set at his shoulders and reported at night the happenings of a day in the world. They were named Huginn and Muninn, which means “Thought” and “Memory”.

Maybe it was impossible to touch a legend.

original copyright © ∞ Olga Gubanova 2013

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