© 2011 Will K raven

Why Raven

When I was 13, there was a girl in my youth group on whom I had an incredible crush.  We had “gone out” for 3 days the year before; that ended with a note passed to me by one of her friends explaining that the romance was over.  What was, in reality, perfectly explainable was, in experience, a great mystery which I would pursue without fault for the next year.  So, in the fellowship hall during some youth group meeting or another, I seized the opportunity to either understand what escaped me or to recover it altogether.  In all the complexity I could muster at 13, I knew this plan had to commence with some sort of communication with the girl.  She knew who I was, or at least remembered that I existed–I really didn’t care which was the case at that point; I figured that she wouldn’t be able to ignore either if I were a body standing before her and I could manage to lock her into a conversation.  So I racked my adolescent brain and came up with the perfect plan: I would ask her about a movie.  It would show a philosophical interest in her, attempting to draw out the conclusions of her meditations on some current cinematic presentation.  The assault would thus begin: a bold approach following convenient positioning of myself where she would inevitably approach me and after a long, deep gaze into her eyes that should last no longer than a few milliseconds, I would spring my trap.  “Have you seen ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?'”  The 90 second exchange of affirmations and quotations ended anticlimactically and I watched as she left with her boyfriend at the time–a guy 2 years my senior with the leg hair of a full-grown man.  I remember thinking, “I bet he could grow a beard if he wanted.”   And there I stood, as average and common an example of a 13 year old male as there ever was.

We are a mosaic of stories.  For all that genetic research has afforded us through understanding the minimalist parts of which we are made up and, in the opinion of some, defined by, I believe there is no greater explanation than the concept of “story” for the exact method of being through which we would have ourselves defined.  Story has the unique ability to add “-ality” to “person” and send them forth into a world which constantly seeks to delete the “-al” from each of our own versions of the word.  The difficulty of story is not first in the respective parts which make up our great Story, it is in their immensity.  Paradoxically, the experience that we now have under our feet is the head of a tall, tall tree with branches outstretched and roots climbing deeper; so much of that tree lives on as forgotten structures of support.  In the extreme cases, the uppermost leaves are left with the question, “how did I get here?”  In the more common cases, those leaves wave in the winds of arrogance or ignorance.  The point is, it is not the past that defines us, it is the stories which allowed the past to exist in the first place.  Each story is as complex, full-bodied and racked with the pains and pleasure of the realest reality as the one to which we are born anew every second and, in this moment, play out with abandon.

Those that I have gotten to know well have showed me that any person is not merely suspended in the matrix of their stories, they are as music from a symphony–an inseparable projection of innumerable parts that at some fixed distance from the mutlitude of origins becomes a unified, singular entity.  We are not separable from our stories, but what can be more disturbing is to realize that our stories are not separable from us.  Memory is selective and latches on to sometimes predictable, sometimes enigmatic memories and sets them up as waypoints through the Story of our stories.  There are, though, still more that are not recoverable to our thoughts; these secret agent stories have worked behind the scenes to connect one to another and, in many cases, hatch a new story that we now simply take as granted.

As much understanding that can be gained by self-review of the volumes, the chapters, the sentences and even the punctuation of our stories, the tomes lost now were once authors themselves.  How can I read the book before me with so many pages missing?  Self-reflection over a slowly evaporating cup of coffee has led me to an algebraic methodology, one born out of defeat.  While I cannot remember–and if I could, then never understand–every branch with all its own little leaves, I can look down and recognize a tree of a certain species with the marks of a life lived in a certain way in a certain place with a certain climate.  I’ve forgotten some droughts but I can see the rings in my trunk that are uniquely thin; I’ve forgotten a storm here and there but I know what those scars must be from.  I remember the cool summers, though, and I enjoy knowing I grew taller because of them; I remember the snowy winters that fell on me like a blanket, and I enjoyed the rest under them.

Here we all are, most of us fishers.  Though the stream and her tenants run under the feet of all our present stories, the years that brought us here are as different as the stream-bed from the sky.  Or, are they?  In either case, it is for the forest to be made of Oaks, Cedars and Sycamores ever so much more than it is to be made of “trees.”  The fish invite us to the same specificity of identification: they are drawn to those standing among them as not fishermen, but as Storymen.  They provide their approval by  writing new verses with every inch of line they steal from the reel under our wrist, and offer us a story stretching outward that is begging to be chased…and caught.


  1. Posted December 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm | #

    Awesome. Simply awesome. I’ve learned to stop cursing the bad things that have happened in my life, as they have gotten me to some of the good things I now enjoy.

  2. Posted December 19, 2011 at 5:29 pm | #

    This was fantastic. Stories define us all differently, similar situations, different meanings. The rings in the tree analogy was perfect.


  3. Posted December 19, 2011 at 8:27 pm | #

    Excellent! I have been told that I have a selective memory…haha. I hope that a few fish are drawn to my story that I want to tell tomorrow… ; )

  4. Paul Webb
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 12:09 pm | #

    This was a great essay, and I especially liked your comparison to our lives – as the life of a tree. I know about those stories that define my own life and that is one of the reasons that I have been keeping journals for most of my life – in order that I can go back and recount those unique stories of my life. I have many times thought about special people in my life and how the stories of their lives have defined them.

  5. Posted December 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm | #

    Great piece! It’s all part of one magical equation. My road hasn’t been easy (whose has?) and so I remember a lot of the pieces. Certainly the best and the worst. But occasionally, my mind is thrust into a place where I’m forced to recall another moment when I was all-encompassed with the intensity of that “place,” whether good or bad. It’s kind of chilling.

One Trackback

  1. By Reader Approved Outdoor Blog Posts on January 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    […] Why Raven ~ Reader Note: A beautiful essay by Will about the process of story in our lives. […]

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