Tuesday, October 03, 2006


When Granny first moved to Juneau, before Maya was born, she didn't work and live downtown like she does now. No, in those days, she worked in the valley, and she lived in the valley. Granny's office was in a small building, and she had to climb stairs on the outside of the building to get to it. There was a balcony with a railing that went right by Granny's office windows.

One day Granny was sitting at her desk, doing her work, when she heard a rather sizable thump outside her window. "Goodness me," she said, "what is that?" She looked out the window, but she couldn't see a thing that could have made that noise. Then she stood up, walked around to the other side of her desk, and looked out the window in the other direction. There, sitting on the railing, was the biggest, blackest, most handsome bird! It was a raven, and it looked most clever and interested in the world. "Well," thought Granny, "what a beautiful raven!" But, of course, as soon as Granny saw the raven, the raven saw Granny, and off he flew.

Now, Maya must understand, Granny really likes ravens and she has for years and years and years, ever since Maya's Uncle Richard was a little boy and her Mama was a little girl and they lived in Fairbanks and first met ravens. So, Granny wondered how she could encourage this raven to land on the balcony railing more often, and if she could encourage him to sit where she could see him while she was sitting at her desk. She thought and she thought and she hatched a plan, and then she carried it out.

First, Granny started bringing extra food in her lunch everyday. And she would put the extra food on the balcony railing. She started putting the food where the raven had landed on the first day. Once the food was on the railing, and Granny was sitting at her desk, she would hear him thump land on the railing. She would not get up and look out the window, because she didn't want for the raven to be scared and fly away. But, later when she went out, the food would be gone, so she knew he was eating it.

After the raven got used to Granny putting out food everyday after lunch, she started putting the line of food closer and closer to her window. Day by day, the raven had to walk closer to her window to get to the last bite of food. Finally, one day, he had to be right in front of her window to get that last bite. That was very scarey for the raven, because he did not understand about glass. He did not know that there was something between him and Granny, and that she couldn't just reach through the window and grab him. Well, he hesitated and he waited and he thought about it. But, in all those days of bringing him food, Granny had never hurt him and he had learned that it might be safe to trust her a little. So, he moved to the last bite of food, keeping a very careful eye on Granny to make sure she didn't jump through the window at him, and keeping his wings ready to fly off in case she did. He snatched that last bite and off he flew.

For several days, Granny put just the last bite of food where the raven would have to be right in front of the window where she could see him. Pretty soon, the raven would stay on the railing and eat that last bite right there. Then Granny knew that he trusted her more than before, and now she changed tactics. Now she put all the food where she could see the raven while he ate. And, what do you know, he had learned to trust Granny completely, because he would land right on the railing and eat while she watched him, and as long as she didn't move he wasn't scared at all. Pretty soon, Granny decided that this raven needed a name. She thought about what to call him, and she thought about it, and she thought about it. Finally, one day she was looking at him and he was sitting on the railing and looking at her and the wind was blowing hard and the feathers over his eyes were all rucked up and they looked like eyebrows and he looked just like Groucho Marx. So, Granny named him Groucho.

Everyday, when Granny would walk to work, Groucho would watch her. After lunch, when she put out the food, Groucho would watch her. He knew who she was, and he knew she fed him and he could trust her. One day, as she was climbing the stairs to her office, Groucho started talking to her. He used the same voice ravens and crows use to court each other; a soft, little cooing sort of a voice. Then Granny knew that Groucho trusted her just like he trusted his raven mate, and that made her feel all gooey with emotion. From then on, whenever Granny was outside of her office and Groucho was there (and he wasn't always, because sometimes he flew around doing other things) he would make the courting raven noises at her.

One day, Granny put deeply, richly colored jelly beans out for Groucho, and an eagle flew down low to check out what they were, but she didn't land and eat any.

And after a while, Groucho started bringing another raven when he came to eat on the railing. Granny thinks the second raven was his mate. After that, Granny could watch two ravens sit on the railing and eat, although the second raven was never quite as brave about it as Groucho was.

Now, after a while, Granny had to go to work downtown. Her office wasn't in the valley any longer (although the building was still there, just Granny didn't work in it any longer). She didn't see Groucho everyday anymore. She didn't put food out on the balcony any more (because she wasn't there to do it). Granny really missed Groucho and his wife. But, still to this day, sometimes Granny walks by her old office building, and Groucho makes the courting raven noise at her. And then, if she can, Granny goes into Family Grocer and buys something to feed Groucho. She doesn't put it on the railing, but she scatters it on the sidewalk, and Groucho comes and eats it all up. So, even though Granny can't see Groucho everyday any longer, still they remember each other, and still they recognize each other, and still they love each other, all these 13 years later.


Anvilcloud said...

I love these bird stories.

Marianne said...

You are so clever! What a great grandma idea! I'm so glad I found your site. I'll be back for more! Warmly, Marianne

Joy Des Jardins said...

What a beautiful story of love and friendship with Groucho J....and something so wonderful to pass on to Maya. You have so many beautiful animal stories.

Autumn's Mom said...

Awww I didn't want that to end! Lovely story.

Ms. Mamma said...

What a sweet story. I know I must be pms-ing because I became all teary eyed. I'm such a sap and you're such a great storyteller.

Ginnie said...

I could feel myself go "all gooey" reading about Groucho. Thanks.

Melissa said...

That is so cool. I adore ravens. Native americas believe that animals that you see alot are your spirit guides. Maybe raven is one fo yours.

I can't believe you fed him candy. I love that.

Maya's Granny said...

In Alaska, in the winter, animals need all the calories they can get to stay warm; and ravens don't have teeth. I fed him candy and French fries and chicken and salami and cheese and crackers and carrot sticks and boiled egg and a number of other things that I don't remember off hand. He ate it all. With gusto.

LauraHinNJ said...

These are great stories and ravens make an awesome totem bird.

lorettambeaver said...

Great remembering! What a wonderful memory. Glad you shared!