A bird, a canyon, a day of wonder and sorrow
I was traveling out west in March 2008 with fiddler Jane Rothfield and guitarist Max Cohen and we visited the Grand Canyon. It was a beautiful day, clear, glorious and and majestic, with ravens soaring overhead as we walked the trail at the canyon’s edge. It was also a sad day because my father was dying in Florida. As we left Hermit’s Rest, one raven landed in our midst. Fixing me with a beady eye, the bird whuffled its throat feathers in and out, clacked its beak and seemed to speak to me particularly. We were enthralled – I even snapped this photo.
The long moment ended; the raven took flight. Stunned, we just stood, silent and then piled into the car. Just as we left, the call came through. It was my brother and my father had passed just as the raven spoke to us. Several weeks later, in memory of my dad, Rodger E. Hinds, I wrote a slow air with Max Cohen and called it “Raven’s Wing.”
The story has even more layers. Upon hearing the about the bird and listening to the music, my mother told me about my father’s World War II airborne unit, the Ravens (301st Bombardment Group, Army Air Corps). This was new to me, as was the the photo of his insignia with three ravens on a blue background. Their newsletter is even called “The Raven.”
As the years go by, a raven often visits in the yard. Not a crow, much bigger. Not the same raven, of course, but I greet him as if we were related. Who really knows?
Max and I play this tune at the Fiddlers Summit in Shepherdstown WV in 2010.
Mother’s Day 2014: Impromptu jam on “Raven’s Wing” at La Grande Rencontre. Cathedral del Gesu, Montreal. With Bruce Molsky, Pierre Schryer, Quinn Bachand and Robin Bulliaume.