Ravens lead to a revelation amid Red Rock SanTan Sun News

Ravens lead to a revelation amid Red Rock

Ravens lead to a revelation amid Red Rock
Spirituality
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By Lynne Hartke

Guest Writer

The name of the location — Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness — said it all. Wilderness. Check. Mountain. Check. Red Rock. Check.

And that secret bit? It may have been a well-known fact to some people, but my husband Kevin and I had never heard of the arch in Fay Canyon until a trip to Sedona in early June.

With the temperature pushing into the upper eighties, we shuffled down the loose sand trail through oak, juniper and manzanita, stopping to admire the wildflowers still in evidence: the tiny fleabane, the spindly pink stalks of desert penstemon and the bright red paintbrush.

We took several wrong turns down a dry wash, as we searched for the side trail to the arch, before stumbling upon a cairn next to a flowering sacred datura, the huge trumpet flower wilting like crumbled tissue paper in the afternoon heat.

The arch blended into the surrounding red sandstone, so at first glance it appeared as an ordinary rock overhang. As our eyes adjusted, we detected the 97-foot span and scrambled up the steep incline through yucca and prickly pear cactus for a closer view.

Advertised as heavily trafficked, we were surprised to have the arch to ourselves—alone, that is, except for a pair of ravens nesting near the top of a nearby 100-foot cliff. As we approached, they circled like wraiths above us — their four-foot wingspan the most prominent feature of their all-black bodies.

The ravens cawed their displeasure at our trespassing into their established territory. We saw no evidence of their bowl-like nest formed of large sticks and twigs, and lined with softer grass, deer fur, feathers and mud, but the cascade of white droppings down the red rock indicated a nesting site above us. Once we disappeared under the arch, they settled down, only to arouse whenever we ventured out to snap more photos.

Nevermore. Nevermore.

My dad had croaked out the famous words of the narrative poem by Edgar Allan Poe whenever he heard the word raven. As a teenager I thought it was weird and downright embarrassing, but now that my dad has been gone for over six years, I miss his raspy raven voice.

Dad had grown up in a poor farming family where books had been read by his mother after the evening meal. Later, as a teacher, Dad had read aloud to his students in the last remaining minutes of a class, including Poe’s poem, The Raven.

The poem mourns the sadness of lost love, but the pair circling above the arch carried no hints of melancholy. Up until this point, I was more familiar with the scavenger side of the bird, an opportunist searching for an easy handout in an overfilled trash can at a trailhead parking lot.

But this sight — a pair of lifelong mates soaring with rasping calls on rising thermals — was a regal secret I had not expected to find in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness.

He gives wild animals their food, including the young ravens when they cry. Psalm 147:9 ISV

Lynne Hartke is the author of Under a Desert Sky and the wife of pastor and Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke. She blogs at lynnehartke.com.

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