Wednesday, July 30, 2014


the who-who astonished me.  sunlight not yet peaking over the mountains to the east, the air was thick with lingering strands of dawn and the edges of each shrub, rock, and gambol oak were gently blurred and softened.  looking to the sound, I saw nothing unusual, no oval feathered silhouette, no winged creature flying from roost to roost.
just the call, the greeting.
that was six years ago, and I didn't hear another call or see an owl for the next four years.  they were there:  I didn't possess the ability to see them.

there was a time when humanity recognized itself as part of nature, and nature as part of itself.  in the past, shamans, priests, and priestesses were the keepers of the sacred knowledge of life.  they helped people remember that all trees are divine and that all animals speak to those who listen.  to them, every species and every aspect of its environment had the power to remind them of what they could manifest within their own life . . . an aid to bridge the natural world to the supernatural, awakening the realities of both within the environs of their own lives.  we can use animal totems to learn about ourselves.*

in the world of animal totems, the owl symbolizes the moon, the night, the feminine, and is believed to have great healing powers.  the owl is a bird of magic and darkness, of prophecy, and of wisdom.

a magic window exists for spotting owls, a window that coincides with my early morning rides during the summer months.  nocturnal hunters, owls are most active in the dark and most reclusive during sunlit hours.  therefore, my early morning rides that begin in the dark and take me up a wooded canyon as the sky begins to lighten are perfect for sighting owls.

I've learned to scout for a shape, perched atop a utility pole or barren tree, elliptical and motionless.  I keep a vigilant watch on the sky to catch one in flight, its significant wings silenced by the fringe on the front.  and I listen for a screech.

a year ago I saw two smaller owls perched on a utility pole, and I heard screeches.  I thought, screech owl, and began investigating when I returned home.  I learned that screech owls don't screech, but adolescent great horned owls do.  
so now I listen for screeches, and am often able to find an owl hidden in a tree or taking off in flight.

the other morning an owl flew across the road dozens of feet in front of me, landing in a tree on the hill to my right, where I stared directly into its eyes from perhaps 8 feet away as I passed.  I count myself as one of privileged few who are able to have so many close encounters with these winged creatures, more this summer than in my entire life before.

I don't know that they have particular messages for me.  but if they did, I'm certain the messages would be to carry on, to believe in my own magical powers, to embrace the beauty of the night, to always remember that I am one with nature, one with this amazing world, one with those who live alongside me . . . whether or not I'm able to see them.

*ted andrews, author of Animal Speak: the spiritual & magical powers of creatures great & small

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