Raven flew low along the shoreline. A storm cast its veil over the sun, leaving a darkness so deep he could fly almost invisible against the sky. And that is how Raven felt. Invisible, and alone.
He tilted into the trees, fluttering quickly through the rain, dashing between silhouettes of bare branches and shadowy evergreens. The sound of them creaking in the wind made him feel even more lonely.
Raven pushed to the top of an old Tamarack and perched there, swaying in the wind. Rain pelted his face and stung his eyes. He blinked and shook the droplets from his feathers. The forest stretched cold and sorrowing before him.
. "Perhaps if I sing to the sun, she will warm me with her light," Raven whispered. He sang out in his clearest voice, but the song bent thin and wavering into the storm. Even so, the sun glowed at him from between two clouds, flickering like a soft beacon through the rain. Then the clouds closed again, leaving Raven shivering in their shadow. Squinting against the storm, he lifted his eyes.
"If the sun cannot reach me, perhaps I can fly to her," he said. He raised his wings, testing their strength against the wind.
"I wonder how long I would have to fly to get there? Surely, it isn't so far. Whenever she smiles at me, I feel that I can almost touch her warmth with the tips of my wings."
He leaned forward and leapt from the tree, flapping wildly in the wind, circling up and up, free now, soaring.
Suddenly, a gust of wind whipped Raven back and forth in the sky, blowing the rain so hard it crept beneath his feathers, soaking him to the skin and making his wings feel heavy and cold. He labored to move them, circling skyward.
Below him, the forest spread like a meadow of wet grass over shallow valleys and rolling hills, and the lake lay like a tiny, sapphire island in a sea of watery green. The clouds, which had always felt so close to him from his home in the forest, seemed always out of reach, no matter how hard he flew.
Still he flew higher, drinking in the sky with each breath; his wings heavy with rain, his heart weightless with hope.
It was both lovely and lonely, high in the storm-drenched sky, and the sight of it made his eyes brim with tears. Or was it the cold that made him cry? He blinked to clear his eyes. His tears turned to ice and tumbled down his face.
The rain had turned to ice, too. Raven's face ached. His wings thrummed with pain, and the frigid air burned his throat with every staggered breath. He knew the sun was up there, somewhere above the storm. He tried to call out to her, but he could no longer sing. His voice was frozen.
He faltered in his flight, trembling, doubting his strength. At that moment, the sun glimmered from behind the clouds, lifting his spirits, inviting him to fly even higher.
The moment he decided to push once more against the sky with his weary wings, the storm gave way to stillness. All was mist and light and music. Cloud music. Raven had flown so high, he was inside the clouds. He closed his eyes and listened. The music was so beautiful, he nearly forgot to fly.
From his home in the forest, Raven had often felt music in the distant, muted shapes of the clouds, and now here it was, all around him, coming from high and low, from this side and that. He could both hear and feel the notes that made the music; deep, rumbling tones that vibrated in the air-filled bones beneath his breast, and higher, melodic voices, like whispering trees, which entered his very heart.
He flew quietly through the clouds, listening for the peace that lingered in the spaces between the notes. There was music, then silence; and then a gentle lift in his spirit each time the music began anew. Raven tried to sing out with joy, but his voice was still too frozen to sing.
He began to see shapes moving through the mist. First, an immense white bear climbed the silken edges of a cloud mountain, and then a featherwyng peeked at him through a window of blue sky. They were images from the sleeptime stories his mother had told him when he was only a hatchling, and he was delighted at the sight of them, for he had always believed they were real.
As he flew even higher, he began to feel a presence in the space between the clouds. He was astonished to find that the blue divide, which he had perceived to be a patch of empty sky, was moving and alive, infused with the same peace he felt in the silence between the notes of music that surrounded him. The shape moved in the form of an enormous swan with light-filled wings and a blue, swirling tail fin, which pushed it gently through the mist. Though Raven could see through it, like an ever-changing window between the clouds, it felt more real than any solid form he had ever seen.
Raven winced with pain as an ebony feather, brittle with the cold, broke from his wing and twirled downward, out of sight.
"I did not know it would be so cold," he thought.
His body was nearly frozen. His tail feathers were so stiff, he could scarcely control the direction of his flight. The sun glimmered dimly from above.
"If I can fly just a little higher, surely her light will warm me."
Raven lifted his frozen wings once more, and emerged through the tops of the clouds. He blinked against the brightness of the sun. The storm, so grey and forbidding beneath, was an endless blanket of white from above, like new snow on a wintery plain. Above the white, the Sea of Sky stretched on forever. It was all too beautiful. Raven could scarcely breathe.
The frost on his feathers glowed in the light of the sun. He closed his eyes, waiting to be warm. But she could not warm his body or ease the stiffness in his wings, for the air was even colder here, above the clouds. Another feather broke away, spinning slowly into the storm below.
As Raven watched it fall, his thoughts became as still and clear as the sky that surrounded him. He knew his strength was nearly spent, his wings and body failing in the cold. He would not have the strength to fly all the way down to his nest in the forest.
The blue stillness moved slowly across the field of white, making an ever-changing space between the clouds. There was peace in its silent flight. Raven could feel it watching him.
There would be no turning back. He would fly higher, then, for as long as he could. For all his suffering, he felt that, having been born with wings that could carry him here, and a heart that longed for the magic that dwelled in the Sea of Sky, he belonged to this place.
The sun dipped behind the storm's edge. Raven watched the rising of Mother Moon, and beyond, the stars. The storm had nearly emptied its rain, and as the clouds below him thinned, Raven breathed in the sight of the vast, lovely world beneath him. Whatever happened, he knew that his heart was changed forever. He had seen the magic above the storm and, having seen, he would never unsee.
Mother Moon smiled at him sorrowfully. He began to fall. As his sight dimmed, the space between the clouds moved toward him. It wrapped him in its wings, falling with him, filling his heartspace and every hollow in his bones with a warmth that felt like love.
Raven awoke to the sound of bluebirds singing. Cloud music thrummed softly down from the sky; he felt the warmth of dappled sun on his face, and heard the song of old trees moving gently above him.
As he shook the sleep from his body, there was a memory of blue, a dream of falling; and within the dream, a whispering inside his heart.
“Do not sorrow, love. I have you."
The sky's blue reflection drifted across the lake and rose like a swan through the morning mist. It paused, hovering protectively over his nest. Then it moved softly, silently, into the clouds.