This Owl

I was texting with a friend just now who lives near Boulder. A friend in DC had texted me. We were all feeling sad for the world.

Is there a meditation for that? I wondered.

I woke this morning feeling as flat and grey as the sky, and that was ok: it was neutral. I accepted the internal clouds and gave myself over to a day off. I need one every week or two, the more the better, and it’s been a hard-pushing ten days. Just internally. Not like I’m out breaking rock. I felt sad for the world and everyone in it

(Except for me, suddenly. And for once, I didn’t feel altogether guilty; I felt grateful.)

Stellar rose from his bed.

Get up, I told myself. I turned my attention to what the night outside might hold: the waxing moon overhead, sky deep cerulean, an evening star, a soft shifting cloud palette of blues and greys. Stellar sometimes likes to linger by the door. I want him to walk with me for several reasons. I started around the south end of the house and heard a Great-horned Owl calling to the north. Suddenly energized, I stopped, listened, again, again, the same call, hoo-hoo hoohoooo… 

I first think to call the owl to stir Stellar’s jealousy and bring him to my side. He’s been known when I’ve talked with owls before to sidle up whining, throw himself on the ground, and roll. If I’m talking to an owl or a tree or anything else in the garden too intently, he used to do that. No more! Either he doesn’t hear, he doesn’t care, he knows it doesn’t matter, or… Still, I hope to bring him to my side, so I echo the owl’s call. Then I think, There’s no reason I can’t call him in, too.

I’ve always believed in Dr. Doolittle, assumed though that I could never really speak to the animals; but now, as I spend more uninterrupted time alone, I reconsider… I had phoebes practically landing on my shoulder last summer. The owl hoots again, after a pause.

Hoo-hoo hoohooooo… another pause. I call back. A pause. He calls again. A pause, then I call back. Then a long silence.

He soars in from the north woods, skimming juniper tops, dark and silent, big, wings outstretched he banks up, perches atop the tower roof. He turns his head and looks at me. I face him looking up, dumbstruck. For a full minute or two we observe one another. Listen, I caution myself, don’t speak. I open my chest and breathe, press my feet into the ground, looking up at his silhouette against the darkening blue sky. Breathe. Open.

I know how smart these owls are. Were I willing to feed him I could train him to come. Instead, I merely want to welcome him, assure him I’m a benevolent force in his world, offer him my home, shower him with my attention, awestruck. Only connect. This is my moment with the Divine. I stand silent, hands in pockets, opening my heart and life to him.

Hoo-hoo hoohooooo… In sync with the rhythm of his call he fluffs and twitches his tail upward, posturing, seeking, watching me. A pause.

Hoo-hoo hoohooooo, I reply. He registers my response, then flies off to the south and disappears.

Did I answer right? I don’t know quite what I said to that owl, but I know it had to be nice. I could hear it in his voice as surely he could hear it in mine.

“You belong.”

The owl feels our pain, and sings his own loneliness.

5 thoughts on “This Owl

  1. Wow, Rita. Thank you for so lyrically sharing that magical moment.

    Here at the edge of a stand of century-old second-growth redwoods near the shore of Monterey Bay, Chuck and I often attempt to converse with the Great Horned Owls who perch and call just beyond our back deck. I suspect our accents are so bad that the owls don’t bother to dignify us with a response. But we love living so close to these powerful creatures. It’s a special thrill to listen in on the dialogues between fledglings and parents.

    • Thank you, Sarah. I’ve been speaking from afar with them occasionally for years, and honing my accent. It felt like he came to check me out, see if I was legit. I’m confident it was a he, calling for a mate, as there had been no reply from elsewhere, and he was smallish, as males of that species are compared to females. It was indeed a magical moment. Seconds before I saw him I felt him on his way and was looking exactly at him when he entered my field of vision from the woods. Had I not been looking I wouldn’t have known—one thing I have always loved about owls is the feather adaptations that allow them absolutely silent flight.

      I felt no distance, no difference, between us as he soared to the roof; I felt utterly connected to him for that long silent moment. When he related my call to my shape, he clearly concluded I was not legit and flew away on his quest for a more appropriate partner. I felt honored he’d considered me even for a moment!

      I haven’t been privy to their conversations with their young, and am so happy for you that you have. What a peaceful image of you and Chuck on your back deck in the gloaming, among the redwoods, sharing space with “these powerful creatures.”


Leave a Reply