The Russian Orthodox Church is celebrating Christmas today. In the Yup’ik country of Western Alaska, believers called it Slavic. To celebrate Slavic in Russian Orthodox villages along the Kuskokwim River, everyone processes behind a Christmas star from home to home. They crowd into each house to sing and receive small presents like socks, gloves, or candy. In larger villages it might take several nights to complete the circuit. Peace comes easy during Slavic.
Aki has never seen anyone celebrate Slavic but this afternoon we both watched an eagle and raven negotiate peace in the presence of a Christmas tree. The tree, lit by blue and gold lights, stood on a floating fish-cutting barge in the middle of Amalga Harbor. Fifty meters away a raven and bald eagle perched on a boat ramp railing. Even nearer was the tide soaked carcass of a deer. At least three more eagles and a half dozen ravens watch from nearby trees.
All the evidence suggests that the carcass, not the decorated tree, drew these two competitors together. When we first arrived, a knot of ravens and eagles were bickering over the dead deer. All but one raven took to the air. The Christmas eagle moved over to the boat ramp railing, refusing to move even after the raven flew toward it. After the raven took up station a few feet away from the eagle, both birds held their ground. A few minutes later, the eagle and raven turned their backs on the carcass to gaze on the tree as if posing for a Christmas card.