On Ravens and Magic

I have magic. I am a skeptic; I embrace dichotomy. If one told me that they believed in magic I would think they were misinformed and uneducated; I am judgmental and only recognize my magic. There have been a myriad of events in my life where I have willed things into being: actions, reactions, meta-actions. Bullshit. I am part hypocrite and part walker of in-between-spaces: geophysical and metaphysical. These shifts take place under biophysiological changes, such as extreme stress, neurotransmitter depletion, and fugue-like artistic-greater-than-thou-almost out of body experiences where I can touch these in-between-places without the use of my hands. I believe most humans know these spaces; these inhale-exhale fleeting moments of waking dream-like clarity.

I had one such moment while on a trek in Nepal. My body was pushed to severity. I had stopped eating for a number of days because of illness and was losing fluids at an alarming rate. I told my partner to continue on without me: he did, happily or with sadness I do not know. I embraced my fever without choice and was washed in sweaty visions.

I outstayed my welcome at the guest house for I was a single occupant in a two bed room. After two days I decided to depart Namche Bazaar and headed down the road towards Panboche. Stumbling and shuffling along over most of the day I arrived at dusk. In total I walked for over ten hours. By this time the glass shards rolling in my stomach had made its way down to my colon. I remained positive and hopeful until the next morning when my bowels proceeded to only produce blood and nothing else; instantly my resolve broke. I decided to seek medical help, but where? I met Gambo, a highly expressive and talkative Italian man who immediately produced medicine from his bag-o-tricks after hearing my dilemma. I thanked him and verbally considered moving onward. He kindly admonished me and pointed me back down to Namche, “there you will find a doctor and if not you must remember the chemical name of these anti-parasitics and antibiotics,” he pointed at the elongated ramble of letters on the back of one such medicinal package, “and go to the pharmacia with this information.” I wanted to refuse, but knew better as the words of a recent avalanche avoider I met in Annapurna (where people had recently died) rang in my head, “you only live once.” I repeated these words and thanked Gambo wholeheartedly. He grinned and a noticeable feeling of accomplishment flashed across his face because of his ability to be a travelling nurse for the depraved. This wasn’t his first rodeo. Not by a long shot judging by his bag-o-tricks.

Fuck eating. It hurt. It hurt really bad to eat and i didn’t want to give my bowels another reason to bleed. I shuffled onward and downwards. I was not feeling defeated, rather I was invigorated by human kindness. It is great to be alive and to feel alive I silently screamed. I inhaled, exhaled and I stopped many times panting like a dog in a windowless van on a summer day. I was beyond running on empty, fumes or otherwise. I was running on will, but I wasn’t running at all; I was walking, stopping, and laying on the side of an incline while intermittently dreaming about things people miss when they are at their limits: home, alcohol, sleep, and what if I’m not actually okay?

I knew I wasn’t close to death. I am hard to kill, yet I easily fear death until I am walking hand and hand with the reaper and suddenly my resolve is strong for I have a face to pit my fears against. If there is no face, my imagination fears my imagination. This is almost worse than death to me: living in fear of fear. It’s the human condition that every torturer knows of; show the ‘patient’ the instruments of death and allow their mind to fill in the gaps.

Stumbling onward I hear a ‘cawwwk,” and look to my left. Why, hello there little raven I say with my eyes. In response the raven bobs and curiously cocks its head to the right. I continue watching out of exhaustion, curiosity and a strange compulsion to hear what this raven has to say. The raven hops forward on the rhododendron to get a closer look at me. Patiently I allowed myself to be scrutinized – well? I wonder if the corvid is hungry, and I am instantly reminded that I must add calories to my body. “Gah, I must force myself to eat,” I hopelessly think. I rifle through my pack at a sloth-like pace. “Here,” I proclaim and hold up the coconut wafer bar. “Have some of this with me.” I place some on a branch, cross the muddy road and lean against the nearby incline while forcing bits of the bar into my mouth. The raven is instantly curious and hops over to where I put the crunchy morsel. Alas, the raven and I are both startled by a(n) yak herder. A Sherpa women in her late 30’s breaks up our introductory meeting. The raven hops back, and I wait for the great horned docile yaks to pass me as my brain produces the not unusual image of being gored in the stomach. The woman is at the back yelling incoherently (to my ears), while whipping, and throwing rocks, to continue the momentum of the yak ever on.

I look for my friend and our eyes meet. We both seem to express without words our disdain of the yak. The yak came again, not once but four times in total before I decided to part ways. Packing up and walking on the raven hopped along after me cawking, clicking and making low rumbling noises. I stopped and imitated these sounds to the raven’s delight. We were friends. We talked. We shared our lives, our wants and our future goals. I’ll never forget this raven. We talked on a level that is lost to most. I was a base animal.

Another yak train approached. We said our goodbyes.

-R

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