In Pacific Northwest native cultures (Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon) Raven serves many purposes. He is often a force who brings change or creates order, natural phenomena, habits, or customs. He's a trickster and a fool, but he is also a protector of people and smaller beings.
There is a story in the Haida family in which Raven brings light to the people. This story is based upon that myth.
It wasn't going away. It had come before, and it had always gone away before, but this time seemed different somehow. This time it was heavier, lingering longer, filling up more of the empty spaces around her life. It was seeping through all of the uncaulked cracks in her psyche and was running down the walls of her brain. The cloud had taken on an almost physical form around her. It sat on her eyelids and made them heavy. It rested upon her shoulders and forced her to slump. Although she intellectually knew the 'truth,' her mind refused to believe that the depression was just a series of emotions, feelings she could banish if only she could find the energy. She also knew that this was the final time she would go through this cycle.
Connie sighed as she turned the faucet off. Steam rising from the tub blurred her vision and fogged the reflective surfaces of the mirrored paneling along the bathroom wall. From her perch on the tiled edge of the bathtub she could see through the steamed window, into the small yard behind her home. It was just as well that the condensation blocked her vision; her normally pristine landscaped yard had been allowed to fall into disrepair this summer. Her roses, her perfect prize roses, hadn't been pinched back once since they started blooming. The raspberry bushes lining the tall wooden fence had grown gnarled and impossible. The berries were allowed to grow beyond ripe until they fell, swollen and sticky, onto the ground below. Hundreds of times this summer she had started outside to prune and cut, intending to weed the rows between her carrots and peas, wanting nothing more than to inhale the full blooms of the roses and run her hands through the carpet of impatiens beside the stone walkway from her side door. However, it seemed that just putting on her gardening togs was enough to exhaust her, and by the time she reached the door it seemed as though the effort wasn't worth any benefit she would garner from being out.
This had always been the first sign that she was headed into a dark time. The tried and true pick-me-ups stopped working. Biting her lip she gently eased her feet into the scalding tub. The water was hotter than she usually found comfortable, but at least the sensation of pain could still get through her dulled senses. At some level she was worried that the only feelings she still seemed to retain were those most extreme feelings of pain. The milder emotions seemed blocked by some invisible bubble surrounding her. As she eased her body completely into the water and let the steam envelop her, Connie pushed those worries aside. The heat filled her head and numbed her skin.
Connie sat this way for what seemed like hours, partially draining and refilling the tub whenever the water cooled or whenever her body adjusted to the temperature. With a dispassionate eye, she could see the redness form on her skin, the flush from the heated water, the slight burns. She took comfort in the fact that she saw these things rather than felt them. 'Tomorrow,' she thought, 'tomorrow none of this will matter any longer.' She reached for the blade she had set on the edge of the tub.
There was pleasure in the pain, comfort in the idea that she could still feel something, at least for now. She stopped the pressure to examine the small drop of red forming on her inner arm. The steam had built into such a thick curtain around her that she was having difficulty focusing on the veins beneath her skin. Putting down the razor, Connie reached for the clasp of the window above the tub. She opened the window a few inches to clear the steam and allow her to focus on the task at hand.
As she reached to again pick up the blade, she saw a flash of white through the window. Squinting through her blurred vision, Connie saw a large white bird sitting on the windowsill. 'Strange,' she thought. 'I swear that looks like a raven.' She shook the thought from her head. 'Impossible. I've never heard of a white raven.'
She put the blade down on the tiled floor and reached up towards the bird. He sat still, watching her with a wise eye, his head tilted towards her. As her hand approached the sill, he suddenly opened his beak as if to squawk, but merely ruffled his feathers and took flight on silent wing.
Connie woke with a start. Apparently she had forgotten to fully pull the curtain last night (although to be honest, she didn't completely remember coming to bed after last night's bath). The morning sun had sent tendrils streaming across her bed to play with the loose folds of the summer blanket. Grumbling quietly to herself she pulled the sheet over her head and buried her face in the pillow. She strained to pull tears from her eyes, or sobs from her throat as the faint throbbing in her forearm began to assert itself and remind her that she had failed to end things last night. Nothing. There wasn't enough feeling left inside her body to summon tears.
'Well, no sense making the same mistake twice,' she thought as she sighed and poked her head out into the stale room air. Rolling first to her left, she reached out and pushed the bedroom window open. Her body shivered slightly as the cold early- morning air washed over her. Twisting her body, Connie reached for the open vial sitting on her nightstand. 'Remarkable, really,' she thought absently, 'I would have thought that my hand should at least shake a bit.' Connie took this steadiness as a sign of her body's acquiescence to the decision made by her brain. She shook the pills out into her palm and silently counted them. It had taken an amazing amount of willpower to stockpile this bottle. Her insurance would only allow for a one-month prescription at a time, so she had been forced to fall back on over-the-counter sleep aids for the past two months so she could hoard her small supply of the triazolam. She had no idea how many pills this would take, but she figured that her hard-saved 60-day supply should be more than sufficient.
Setting the pills in the ceramic dish beside the bed, Connie stumbled sleepily to the kitchen to fill her water glass and the water pitcher she kept by her bed. Glass in one hand, pitcher in the other, Connie returned to the bedroom and settled comfortably between the cool cotton sheets. She thought briefly about closing the window; the temperature of the room had dropped dramatically with the open pane, but the effort seemed silly. 'It's not going to matter much in a few minutes anyway.'
Two pills at a time, slowly so as not to upset her stomach and destroy the whole point of the overdose, Connie began to swallow the pills. Her stomach clenched as the pills began to dissolve. 'Small steps, Connie. Slow and steady if this is going to work.' Two on her tongue, wash them down with water, rest a moment to let her stomach settle, then reach for the next two.
It was then that she noticed it again. The raven. The white raven. With her attention diverted, her hand stopped somewhere between the bed and her lips. Her eyes were caught by the sunlight glinting off his feathers. 'Strange,' she thought, 'he doesn't look quite as white as he did last night.'
She blinked her eyes and rubbed the lingering sleep from her lids. 'No, he definitely looks substantially gray around the edges. Positively dusty.' She laughed softly and her fingers traced the small flecks of gray at her own hairline. 'Oh well, little one. It happens to the best of us. One day we just wake up and there're the telltale signs.' Her voice was strange to her ears. The sound echoed against walls that hadn't heard human voices in days, weeks perhaps.
The bird preened silently, almost as though he too was inspecting his newly darkened feathers. As his beak brushed under his wing, Connie could see that it was more than just a new smattering of darkness. Where last night there were white feathers, the undersides of his wings were black. Mesmerized by the raven's motions, Connie sat motionless, pills still in hand, watching the bird. She could feel those first few pills start to take hold of her consciousness.
The raven stopped and focused his eyes on her. Still, silent. He could have easily been one of the ceramic figures she remembered her mother being so fond of collecting. Those silly figurines gathering dust upon the mantle. But there was a difference. This one had a fire in his eyes. Those eyes that looked at her, seeing through her. She shuddered.
'Stop it Connie. It's just a damn bird. Or it's a figment of your imagination. Let it be.' Her voice was rough, raw from disuse. With a wave of her hand she shooed the bird away. "Bah! Scat!'