Little House in the Canyon

A flock of ravens played in the wind that ran up and over the top of the rocky ridge above the little canyon. The young birds hung motionless then fell and only caught themselves just before their speed and the sagebrush below became disaster. The old raven sat alone and his sharp eyes watched the tiny figure of the woman at work beside the little house in the canyon far below. He heard the little taps her chisel made a moment after each blow. She stopped to straighten and stretch her back. As she tilted her head her eyes caught the movements of the flock, and for a second their eyes met. The woman looked straight into his eyes, and he saw that strange mixture of peace and power, a soft yet fiercely determined look. The same look he thought that he had glimpsed in the faces of the first people who had come to this little canyon when he was a young bird a very very long time ago. She bent again and broke the stone to fit perfectly into the mosaic pattern of the walkway that led into the garden behind the little house. The old bird had been down there before when the others had lived there. He'd foolishly gone into the house, through an open window in the kitchen where he'd found plenty of scraps of food. There had been enough food and interesting piles of cans and bottles to keep him and his flock sleek and healthy for months. Now he felt a sense of loss when he saw the place. None of the scattered cans, none of the broken and tilted outbuildings where the packrats had raised their delicious little babies. All that bounty replaced by what this little woman and her mate had done. It's a mystery to a bird why the humans do the things they do. And how they bang on things and shoot flames at things and then pile all the funny pieces together. He guessed that maybe some of the people were special and could give life to objects because he'd seen it here. He'd seen that woman and her mate drag tangled and rusty things into that big old horse barn next to the house. They'd gone into that barn and the loud noises had frightened him and the other birds away. And then later there was the growling sound and one of those amazing animals that had once been a pile of colored rock and parts of trees came out and sat there making a sound like a big cat purring. At times like that the raven had seen the little woman attack her mate. She grabbed him and bit him, all over his face and neck. There was really no explaining it all.

By David Holderness