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The Gracie Press Newsletter - The Raven With Blue Eyes

The Gracie Press Newsletter - The Raven With Blue Eyes
This week we are taking a look at how one reader from Germany made a major difference in our stories.
Originally I had established crows as likely “bad guy” characters. They were jealous of the chickens because chickens are given corn where the crows had to steal it. They said the chickens were “just farm animals” or not as good as other birds. Crows are generally seen as bad characters anyway, and it was easy to fall into the associated stereotypes.
But at least one reader felt that crows and ravens should not be seen as evil characters. She convinced me to look at them with different eyes. Later that same month, a juvenile crow found a way onto my screened-in front porch but no way back out. She let me hold her long enough for a photo before I helped her to fly away. I’ve included those links at the end of this week’s newsletter.
I will need to find other characters to say, “Chickens are just farm animals.” In the meantime, ravens and crows are amazing friends to the chickens!

Illustration for “Just Farm Animals” (Part 2)
Illustration for “Just Farm Animals” (Part 2)
A Messenger
Rather than being enemies of Gracie and the other chickens, ravens and crows are portrayed as friends who provide help along with cryptic insights. The Raven With Blue Eyes is a key supporting character. This is from the section of The Shoebox titled “ÏHÏ!” which is their word for “Friend.”
After their evening treats, everyone went up to the coop except for Gracie. As she looked around to make sure all was as it should be, a raven landed softly on the garden fence. She was the most exquisitely beautiful bird Gracie had ever seen. As beautiful as the colors of the sunset were that evening, her black feathers with their glossy perfection were even more beautiful.
   But it was not her feathers Gracie noticed first. It was her eyes. All ravens have blue eyes when they are young, but they turn to gray and then brown as they grow older. This was a fully grown raven who still had blue eyes, just as clear and blue as a summer sky.
   This raven was special. Gracie could tell. Even though a raven had never alighted in our backyard garden, there was something extraordinary about her presence and Gracie felt an immediate connection to this one whom she had never met.
   Just as Gracie began to bow as a greeting of respect, the raven stopped her by speaking.
   “Gracie.”
   “How did you know my name? Did The Robin send you?”
   “I have a message from a friend who is a Guardian. You have a strong mind and an even stronger heart. Even though that friend once laughed at you and called you ‘Princess’ do not let that word or any other hurtful words prevent you from carrying out your plan.”
   “Did Lefty send you?”
   “The one who sent me is only known by my kind as Guardian. Who sent the message is not as important as the message itself. Do not let hurtful words stop you.”
   “What is your kind?”
   “We are Messengers.”
“Are you part of The Living Library?”
   “I am a Messenger and I have brought words to you from a friend who is a Guardian. Do not let hurtful words stop you. That is all you need to know.”
   The Raven looked at Gracie.
   “I have said the words I was given to say. Now I will say what my own heart wants to say.”
   As she relaxed, Gracie watched her silhouette against the sunset shifting from hard and angular to soft and rounded.
“I am sorry for having been so stern with you. We are so different, you and I, and yet so much alike. My job is more than just delivering messages. It is also to protect the sweet and innocent ones like you.
   “My heart has been changed by what I have seen and by what I have had to do to defend others. I do not want that to happen to your heart.”
   Gracie watched as the blue of The Raven’s eyes seemed to cloud over and become a stormy grey. It was as if she was remembering what her heart was once like.
   “That is what happened to Bessie’s heart, isn’t it?” asked Gracie. “After the cat scratched her and her comb grew crooked, her heart changed.”
   “It may be too late for me, but it is not too late for her. There is more happening than what you may realize.
   “There is not much time. The love she has been holding on to will not last much longer. Love must be able to flow into and out of a heart. Love must be able to dance from one heart to another. Love is like a breath, like the wind. You do not know where it comes from or where it is going. You only know it must keep moving or it will no longer exist. Love gives life.
   “Ravens know these things, and my blue eyes see things other eyes can not see.”
   “Like what?” asked Gracie.
   “Like the color of love. It is indescribably iridescent. It flows and flutters like a ribbon in a breeze.”
   “I wish I could see like you.”
   “Sometimes this seeing is not such a great gift. It also means being able to see the color of the absence of love, an unpleasant color that devours all other colors. It is the emptiest of all colors.”
   “Can it devour us too?”
   “Not when you call someone your friend. Whenever you call someone your friend aloud, you breathe out love. Then you do not need to see it with eyes like mine. You only need to feel it with a heart like yours or Bessie’s.”
   “ÏHÏ, Raven,” said Gracie.
   As she spoke, she could feel the love in her heart being breathed out. Then she watched as a sparkling iridescence passed over and through The Raven’s eyes as a hint of calm peace crossed her face.
   “Unless you face your own Biggest Scary Thing, Bessie may never be able to overcome her own Biggest Scary Thing. When tomorrow comes, know in your heart that you are so much more than good enough. And then dance, ÏHÏ. Dance.”
   With that, The Raven With Blue Eyes flew off, leaving only the sudden chill of the evening air blowing through Gracie’s fluff feathers. 
   There was a cold front coming. Gracie could already feel the change beginning, and she hurried up the chicken ladder and into the coop.
A Raven And A Flock Of Crows
This excerpt occurs after The Raven With Blue Eyes left on the night before Gracie’s Most Secret Plan Ever.
   There is more happening than what you realize. That was what The Raven had told her.
   Suddenly, Gracie realized her plan was only a small part of a much bigger plan, a plan bigger than her mind and heart could hold, a plan like the wind. It could not be grasped or held or confined, but it could be trusted. 
   Love had made that plan. Love can be trusted.
   “ÏHÏ!” she heard the wind singing as it blew through the camellias. “ÏHÏ!”
   Then she let love overflow from her heart before dozing off to the sound of Bessie’s peace-filled breathing. 
As part of the conclusion of the story where everything comes together, the raven and several dozen crows play an important role.
None of the chickens, not even Gracie, realized there were dozens and dozens of crows and a single raven high up in the elm and pine trees around our garden. They were ready to swoop in and protect the chickens if anything went wrong.
   I noticed them, though, as I left home. They were like the ones that had followed me to the highway when I had taken Rudy to Lefty’s farm. We were certain The Sewer Rat would not venture into Gracie’s trap if he realized I was home, so I was glad to see that my chickens were being protected without knowing it.
The raven and the crows are still there at the most tense part of the story. This is just a small part because we don’t want to give away too much that would spoil the conclusion for you…but it is tense, even for me, and I know what happens!
…The Sewer Rat began running faster. Behind the Sewer Rat, The Stray Cat began running even faster. They were both running straight towards the open door.
Above them, dozens of black wings stretched upward in unison as if a vast blanket was being snapped and spread over the chickens below. Dozens of black talons tightened as dozens of black knees bent, preparing to hurl The Raven and The Crows downward.
But as events go, their protection is not needed and they help in a celebration instead.
The treetops above them had been silent, but suddenly, they heard the rustling of hundreds and hundreds of feathers as the squadron of twenty-four crows prepared for their next command.
The Raven With The Blue Eyes gave a low call to the crows, and then in one swift movement, they all launched themselves upward from the limbs where they had been perching. They seemed to hang motionless in midair, and then by flights of four, the squadron of crows plunged downward, a glorious mass of triumphant black, swooping down and banking around to form a perfect circle.
Faster and faster they flew. As the circle grew tighter, the rush of air from the flapping of their wings swept up the day’s fresh straw and fallen leaves like confetti as they cawed their congratulations. It was the most amazing feat of aerial mastery the chickens had ever seen.
Then The Raven With The Blue Eyes gave another low call and led them back in the direction from which they had come, to the south and the west. It was towards the farmlands, towards where Lefty and Rudy lived.
The chickens suddenly realized they had been there all along, ready to swoop in if anything had gone wrong. But Gracie and Bessie had worked it out together. That’s just what friends do.
Until Next Time…
If you are like me, you sometimes make big plans, but they don’t always work out quite the way you expect. Sometimes plans fail, but those failures teach us. Sometimes those plans may need to fail in order for a much bigger plan to succeed, often a plan much better than what we could ever hope or dream. Whatever that much bigger plan may be, Gracie was right to think, “Love had made that plan. Love can be trusted.”
Thanks so much for reading!
John, Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia
“Just Farm Animals” (Part 1) – My Life With Gracie
“Just Farm Animals” (Part 2) – My Life With Gracie
Family Photo Friday! – My Life With Gracie
Did you enjoy this issue?
John Spiers (with help from Gracie)

The Gracie Press Newsletter brings you the latest news, stories, illustrations, special offers, and free gifts from Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia. They are the inspiration behind all of the books published under The Gracie Press imprint.

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From A Small Backyard Garden and A Most Wondrous Place in Portsmouth, Virginia