Ravens and Burros
Ravens and Burros
Recently on a guided meditation the image of a raven came to my mind. It reminded me of an encounter I had with ravens and three wild burros in 2016. I was back at Ghost Ranch Conference Center in New Mexico. It was January and cold. I had planned a day with Matthew, who a few months early had gone with me to the Black Place where we encountered the Wild Mustangs (see blog from 10-10-19). This day, Matthew asked if I wanted to find the wild burros. Ghost Ranch had once had a burro herd, but many years earlier had released them across the highway from the conference center. The burros of today were descendants of that burro herd.
Matthew and I parked and walked past the locked gate, up a muddy road. Matthew said the burros have over 11,000 acres to roam. There’s a good chance of not seeing them. As we walked and watched, I asked Matthew what he thought seeing ravens meant. I had seen ravens again and again during my time at Ghost Ranch. Matthew said “They mean change or death, which can be the same thing. White people don’t like it but Native American people see ravens as a symbol of crossing over.”
We turned to climb a mound to get a better view and that’s when they took flight – 25-30 ravens, all flying and circling directly over us. “Wow, that’s the most I’ve ever seen together” Matthew said. “They don’t group together like this.” Change is coming I thought. Big change. Change that requires 25-30 ravens to announce. Change that might require death.
From the top of the mound, we look around. “This mound is human made” Matthew said. We didn’t see any burros so headed down toward some trees. There was a bluff where we could get a good view.
From the bluff, I saw them – 3 burros. Matthew cried out, “Boogie!” The burros looked at us and Matthew headed down toward them. They remembered Matthew, though they had not seen him in a year and a half. Boogie. Star. Ruby. (Matthew’s names for them) Matthew pulled out bananas and fed them, stroking, petting, talking to them. He gave me bananas to feed them. They even ate the peel, except for Ruby. You had to peel it for her.
They pushed in, wanting more attention and bananas. I fed them some carrots while Matthew brushed them. (They loved being brushed.) We were there a while. I had never been this close to burros. Matthew was so thankful we found them, that they remembered him and that they came. But where were the other two? There were supposed to be five. The possibilities were not good – mountain lions, shooters.
Matthew fed them apples, a sugar rush for burros. Ruby wanted love. She kept leaning against me again and again. “She loves to be hugged” Matthew told me. So I hugged her around the neck and talked to her. She responded and pushed her head against my chest.
Star was a beauty and she knew it. She flirted with us. Boogie was the huge alpha male who wanted your love on his terms. “He likes you” Matthew commented. At one point Boogie rested his head on Star’s back, for a long while. Such love.
We began to walk. “Come on,” Matthew called to them. “Walk with us.” Ruby came first, then Star, then Boogie. Matthew stopped and pulled out another apple, cut it up and gave it to them. All three continued to press in, not just for apples but for companionship. Boogie leaned into Matthew, buried his head into Matthew’s shoulder. “Wow, this is intense,” Matthew said, “real intense sharing.” “I think he’s grieving,” I said to Matthew. “Two burros are missing, and he is missing them.”
We walked on. The burros followed, then turned off. We said our goodbyes and watched them wander off. As we headed to the car, I thought of three gifts this day – the flight of the ravens, the love of the burros, and the deep sharing of Boogie. All life giving. Yet, life giving in the midst of change and death and loss.