By Audrey T. Carroll
Ravens have strong ties to The Mórrígan in Celtic myth, ties to death and to war, and I think that this is both. Six black feathered bodies caw together in chips of wood, digging, but whether they dig for something with sparkle or something with substance I do not know. The empty lot outside of the kitchen window always felt strange, supernatural, even—the way that cars would sit and watch our building, the way that men would come and dig in the dirt for mushrooms or bait or something more nefarious. (In truth, I could never see their treasures beyond the bramble.) But all along the edges, trees had grown. Closest to us, they were the youngest, full and green in the summer, hosts to birds and squirrels year-round. These were the trees where I taught my daughter the features of finches, the trees where I helped her to distinguish the melodic cardinals’ songs from the squawking of the catbirds by using our hands to trace the notes in the air.
And, without warning, they came with their chainsaws and their woodchipper and razed it all to the ground, back to flat Earth, and suddenly learning so much about our backyard birds felt futile in a world that was never going to let us keep it.
This is the problem: no one lets things grow anymore.
And I can’t help but think that Nature is in a state of fury. Livid. Heartsick like I was as our rooms filled with sawdust and our ears hummed for hours on end with the grinding. A few young pines are still left. The weekend translates to a two-day break from the butchery. On day one, the skies open up and reduce the lot to swampy mud. My daughter offers a solution to the problem of people taking our “bird trees” from us: Get the chainsaw and fix the trees. And I have to explain to her how this destruction is only one-way. On day two, the ravens arrive to sing their foreboding songs. And it is a death, of course, it is many deaths. The ravens sing the odes to the trees reduced not even to lumber, something that could warm and build, but to piles of rubble, useless and lifeless and bound together by rain into shapes like the fairy mounds of Ireland, like the pathways to Tír na nÓg.
It feels more, too. The Mórrígan is meant to protect the land. It looks like war—the tree stumps, exposed roots, flattened land with marks of its former glory. But even still, as the sun rises and the ravens leave, the rabbits come in the early yawns of day, frail and frightened as they are, to search the fields for something to salvage.
Audrey T. Carroll is the author of Queen of Pentacles (Choose the Sword Press, 2016) and editor of Musing the Margins: Essays on Craft (Human/Kind Press, 2020). Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Prismatica Magazine, peculiar, Glass Poetry, Vagabond City, So to Speak, and others. She is a bisexual and disabled/chronically ill writer who serves as a Diversity & Inclusion Editor for the Journal of Creative Writing Studies. She can be found at http://audreytcarrollwrites.weebly.com and @AudreyTCarroll on Twitter.