A Raven’s Eye view of Life.
On Saturday, June 26th 2021, as I was walking up Amsterdam Avenue to a focal favorite — The Mermaid Inn — to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday, and Pride all wrapped up in one, I was more than a little stunned to see and hear a raven squawking from the rooftop of a building in the mid 80s… Just a stone’s throw from where Edgar Allen Poe had actually lived about 150 years earlier and written The Raven.
What was most disconcerting then and now, was that the raven just kept squawking, like an alarm bell, or the “3-eyed raven” from Game of Thrones… seeing past, present and future all at once and trying to warn all its audience to pay attention. “Winter Is Coming”.
It honestly gave me the creeps.
So, I decided to do some digging about this apparently fateful, doomsday-ish bird.
And what I learned was more complex than I expected.
While the raven is in fact a carrion bird, meaning it eats dead stuff, the bird itself is merely a symbol of death as it transforms into new life and opportunity for growth, adaption and survival,
In Native American culture, where it is featured prominently as a totem and “spirit animal”, the raven animal totem is sometimes called the “Keeper of Secrets” and like all birds is a messenger between the heavens and the earth. In the case of the raven, it specifically encourages us to dive deeper and to look within to seek the answers to put in motion much-needed change.
And what does that sound like to you? Maybe your entire pandemic experience, or your life as a whole?
To me, it sounds like New York, it sounds like so many of my friends and community members over the last 20 years or so, who’ve had to endure so much hardship and pain. And it sounds like me. It also coincides perfectly with where I’m taking my career as a life and identity transitions coach.
You see, at every fundamental transition in life, we have to let some parts of us and our identity die, so that other parts can live. Sometimes, we transform by choice, like building new homes or getting married. But sometimes we have to make them against our own wishes. Like Poe himself whose wife Eliza began her long and agonizing 5-year death to Tuberculosis (1842–47) at that very farm in the West 80s where he wrote The Raven.
As I reflect on this past 16 months, the lessons I’ve learned, the trqnsformations I’ve actively made and the consciousness I’ve gained, I know much of my past identity has been reformed into something else, but not entirely “gone”. And maybe the raven squawking at us to wake up on Amsterdam wasn’t a death sentence but just a wakeup-call to either pay attention to and appreciate what we have or an opportunity to make the transformative changes and reforms we need to make to survive this pandemic and the other looming crises coming towards New York, The United States and the world.
Holly Lynch is a 20+ year communications veteran and life-long social impact advocate and strategist who has helped individuals and companies tackle the toughest challenges in their worlds. Having survived countless life setbacks and two rounds with terminal cancer, while seeing the country-wide collapse of the systems and safety nets for the most vulnerable in and outside our communities, she is now shifting her life and career trajectories to focus on coaching those facing down fundamental shifts and transitions as they try to navigate and rebuild their lives and businesses during these unprecedented times.