Two years ago I began working on a short film called, The Story of White Raven.
I wanted to weave the myth of the bird with the science. And I wanted to weave them together to show that the picture of the whole was far greater than the picture of the half; that we need a mind and a heart for a story to have any meaning.
I also decided that the process of making the film would be to follow not a logical plan, but an intuitive feeling, I would go where my heart led me. I wouldn’t impose a story, I would let it reveal itself.
So my good friend Jenica, who has made art about Raven’s all her life, and my 16-year-old Jack Russell Lily did a road trip to the BC interior in search of the elusive white bird.
We ended up in a tee pee of a dead man with his buffalo skull, at a road blockade to stop a pipeline, and with a cowboy who collects road kill and feeds ravens.
And then we got lost and found ourselves at a yard sale where we met an aboriginal man coming back from fishing with his kids and dog. When we said we had got lost looking for the white raven, he said, “oh, you are on a walkabout.”
Shortly after I went to visit Terri Lynn Davidson, she is from Haida Gwaii but has a law firm nestled in the trees near White Rock, BC called White Raven Law. She is also a very accomplished musician and I thought her music might be a good fit for the raven film. And I hoped she would be a guide, a lighthouse in the fog I felt I was wandering in searching for a white raven.
Her office was full of beautiful Haida art, and I felt in her presence a lump in my throat like I was on the edge of crying. I am learning that is a signpost that I am on the right track. When I asked of the story of the white raven, she told me in Haida legend it was White Raven that brought light to the world. She also suggested I look at the Anishinabe seventh fire prophecy, that tells when animals had a white one born, it was a sign of a big shift to come.
A week later I read of a white moose getting shot in Nova Scotia, a sacred animal to the Mi’kmaq people. I knew I had to go there immediately. My friend Rachel picked me up and offered to take me to the Mi’kmaq community near where the white moose had been shot. Two kind and gentle warriors and brothers, Clifford and Danny, greeted us. Rachel was gifted a black turtle and I was given a white turtle which I shall wear on this journey. Danny shared the story of turtle and explained that the turtle shell has 13 sections, one for each full moon in a year. And before this land was cut up into three countries and numerous states and provinces, it was called Turtle Island. As I sat with that I realized Canada has ten provinces and three territories.
It was at that point the seed for walking a trail that connects us all started to grow.
painting by Jenica Vanelli