The Tenth Muse

Thu 04/15/04 at 3:32 pm

In his “Welcome to Edgewise” email, my buddy Mark announced that I would write under the nom de plume of “walking raven.” That’s not exactly right. Mark and I had talked about blogs in the past, and he’d sent me notice when his got up and running. I expressed some interest in having a blog my damn self. Then I sent him what became my December 24 entry and told him that was the kind of stuff I wanted to put on my blog. He posted it, I think on his blog — sort of fuzzy on the exact chain of events. For those of you who don’t know me or weren’t raised in the Midwest, for nearly 50 years now, I have lived a shame-based life to the fullest — though in the last few years I’ve occasionally permitted, or even took actions that resulted in, attention being drawn to myself. I know what some of you are thinking — and you’re right — thank god for Paxil. Before then, public attention of any sort was strictly on an as-needed basis, and never without discomfort. So, I’m sure you can see why I couldn’t possibly register my given name as a domain name — no with a comin’ at you digital photo for me, no sir! And then James Joyce came to my rescue. I had an epiphany. Would I have had an epiphany if I’d not read James Joyce and learned about epiphanies? I guess I wouldn’t have had an epiphany because I didn’t know what such a thing was. But would I have had something like an epiphany? Well, that’s a blog entry for another day. Anyway, the background leading up to my epiphany started with a childhood fascination with the ravens that appeared with regularity in the books I read. I have no awareness of ever seeing a raven in real life. I know now there are raven in Minnesota and Iowa, but when I was growing up, ravens and crows were just crows.

Then, one day I came across the most incredible painting in the form of a blank card:

die Krähe von Hurzlmeier Rudi

And I had a moment of recognition. I was staring at my Muse.* Why this creature is my Muse, I don’t know. I just know that it is. The picture is by a German artist named Hurzlmeier Rudi and it’s called simply Kraehe, German for “Crow.” So, I asked a birder if she could explain the difference to me between ravens and crows. She immediately quipped, “it’s a matter of opinion.” Apparently, this particular question is a birder joke. When she realized I actually wanted a serious answer to my question, we did some research. From what we could glean from Sibley’s et al., it boils down to a difference in their calls. In addition, ravens soar, crows flap. Then, for Christmas, my partner Darcy got me the Navajo carving of the Walking Raven with purple sneakers. Shortly thereafter I recorded my first blog entry. In the ensuing days, I went on line and learned that the domain name “walking crow” had been reserved, but “walking raven” had not. The rest, as they say, is history.

* For those of you who, like me, might need a refresher, in Greek mythology, the Muses were nine goddesses, daughters of the god Zeus, king of the gods, and of Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. The Muses were believed to inspire all artists, especially poets, philosophers, and musicians. By late Roman times (3rd century to 5th century), each Muse was believed to preside over a particular art: Calliope was the muse of epic poetry; Clio of history; Euterpe of lyric poetry sung to the accompaniment of the flute; Melpomene of tragedy; Terpsichore of choral songs and the dance; Erato of love poetry sung to the accompaniment of the lyre; Polyhymnia of sacred poetry; Urania of astronomy; and Thalia of comedy. Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2003. © 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

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