The raven who dreamed of eagles

The old newspaper heading for columnist Richard Wagamese called Touching the Circle.

By Richard Wagamese, originally printed in Windspeaker on March 3, 1989

There was once a very dissatisfied raven who dreamed of being an eagle. The raven would sit for hours on his favorite perch watching the eagles as they soared high about the trees. They looked so powerful and so proud. All of the raven’s brothers and sisters admired the eagle. The eagle carried great wisdom and the raven was jealous.

Every day the raven would look at his dark oily wings. They seemed so small and insignificant compared to the tremendous wings of the eagle. The raven was a heavy bird. Long flights and the ability to soar high above Mother Earth were beyond the strength of his raven wings. The eagles seemed to spell out freedom in their graceful flight. The raven felt almost earthbound.

It wasn’t too long before the jealousy and dissatisfaction drove the raven into motion. He told himself that if the eagles could learn to soar so high, that he could learn too. He told himself that if the eagles could learn great wisdom from their journeys, then he too could become admired for this learning. He told himself that he too could be an eagle.

So, every morning the raven would pray to the Creator. He would ask the Creator to help him become an eagle. He just knew that if he could learn to become an eagle then his dissatisfaction with his life would disappear. He just knew that if he could learn to become an eagle, then his brothers and sisters would admire him too.

After his prayers, the raven would begin to fly. Higher and higher he would climb. Each day found him able to fly higher and higher into the face of Father Sky.

Each day he felt more confident. Each day he felt more and more like an eagle and less like a raven. Each day his fights took him further and further away from his brother and sister ravens who now seemed so far below him on Mother Earth.

His brothers and sisters worried about the raven. Because they were ravens too, they knew that raven wings were not meant for the great flights of the eagle. They also sensed a great learning.

One day the raven climbed higher than he’d ever climbed before. Surely, even the eagles had not soared so high. The raven was proud. He felt like the greatest eagle ever. But because he had climbed so high, his raven wings were tired. As he tried to soar around and around his tired wings gave out. He fell. Faster and faster he spun around and around towards Mother Earth. He’d lost control.

He landed in the highest branches of the pine tree. He tumbled roughly from branch to branch until he landed with a great thump on the earth. His oily feathers were a mess. As he lay there hardly able to breathe, his brothers and sisters came to see if he was alive.

One very old and very wise raven stepped forward. He listened as the raven told them all about his dreams of being an eagle. About his dissatisfaction with his life. About his prayers to the Creator and about his fear as he tumbled back to earth.

The old raven smiled.

Eagles would always be eagles, he said. Ravens would always be ravens. He told the injured raven that every creation possessed its own unique and special gifts. Every creation was wonderful. As much as the raven admired the gifts of the eagle, the eagle admired those of the raven.

So be proud to be a raven, he said, and admire the eagle for what he is and learn from him. And to this day, as you watch the ravens, you will see a part of the eagles’ flight in the flight of the raven. Flap and soar. Flap and soar.

This little story contains some very valuable lessons for me. When I look back at my life, I remember many instances where I was dissatisfied and jealous. When I wanted to be something other than what I was. So I became various people at various times. I would climb to great heights only to tumble to earth again, dazed and confused. Sometimes those tumblings were more painful than others.

Back then I had no idea of who or what I was. I was a raven who dreamed of eagles. I was constantly doing this and that in order to fulfill my dream of being able to soar and be admired. I was constantly leaving my brothers and sisters behind.

It’s only recently that I’ve been able to realize and appreciate a very simple truth. That I need to accept me as I am. That no amount of doing is going to change who I was sent here to be and become. That I just need to learn who to be. A human being rather than a human doing.