Please Listen!
By: Brad Cole

The ravens wings sounded like a rope circling hard, cutting through the dense wintry air. "The low-flying bird must be watching to see if I'll drop food," I thought. Again the sound of "whoosh-whoosh" came from its flapping wings. The large black bird squawked and flew away down the pebbly beach.

I was walking along the west beach of Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island, and my feet sank into the loose wave-washed gravel. Large foaming white waves collapsed on the wet beach in a quiet, low-pitched thunder, sounding as though the ocean was tossing in a deep slumber. Walking is my way of relaxing after a day of teaching, with the rocky slopes of Mt. Sevuokuk to the east, the rolling tundra south of the village and the gun-barrel blue sea surrounding the Northwest Cape.

Near the western horizon I could see the wind-thrown spray of a whale surfacing from a long dive. I thought about how they sink far below to hunt in the deep darkness by studying the various sounds. Perhaps through their years of searching and listening to the icy churning sea they have learned how to be free, to journey far and to see emptiness as freedom and darkness as light. Perhaps the ancient life-giving sea has taught them wisdom.

"Learning how to listen is the first step to becoming a mature adult," I thought. I have tried so hard to teach this to students, but it is as though they do not believe me. There is too much going on inside their young minds; they are too busy with themselves.

Again, a familiar "whoosh-whoosh" sound came from above and behind me. I looked up and saw another large raven floating lazily in the cold sky. Like before, this one was also eyeing me for food. In a passing thought I wondered if, like the whales from the sea, it could have heard something from the whispering wind.