Saturday, June 12, 2010
The Better To See
As we headed down the hill, Toby and I, at the beginning of our walk, I searched through the thick green for the top of the flag pole in the meadow below us. Sure enough I could see a brown feathered finial. Two days in a row I was going to get to see my owl perched out in the open.
My eyes were still focused into the trees just beyond where the flag pole was visible when I realized I was staring straight into the eyes of an owl. Two owls in one day! This one was large and dark, the female most likely, and she was perched on a thick mossy branch extended from the big leaf maple like an arm bent at the elbow. We watched each other for a long while, until Toby's need to walk exceeded my need to be in her company.
It turned out the owl on the flag pole was the fledgling, not quite so furry looking as the first time I saw him, but very raggedy and very nervous. He nearly tipped himself off his perch trying to spin around to keep an eye on the giant red beast circling below. He regained his balance, settled his feathers, and stared down at me with those round round eyes until he flapped into the trees where he could watch us from a safe distance.
Several days passed after that with no owl sightings at all. They apparently prefer not to perch in the open when it's pouring down rain. Regardless, I found myself searching for them in all the usual places. At some point I became aware I was seeing this familiar and beloved world with sharper clarity, like someone had adjusted the focus. The way moss dressed the trees below the waist in skin-tight velvet. The way light played with kittenish leaves as a breeze cantered through. The way the owl-perch branch was scuffed bare in just one spot.
These owls have lived here for at least three years, yet this is the first spring I've seen them. I didn't think I could spot them in daylight because they're nocturnal, so I never tried. After the first accidental encounter weeks ago, I began to watch for them, and now spotting one is only slightly more unusual than seeing the flash of red that tells me a woodpecker is at work.
I know if I don't see one today, I will on another day. I look closely and am as fully present as it's possible to be when I'm in their space. Interestingly, I'm never disappointed when I don't find one. Because the experience of being in that space, being still, being so alive – that has become almost as wonderful as the owls themselves.
I find myself thinking about faith when I'm looking for my owls, or checking for a bald eagle in the snag he frequented earlier in the spring, or spotting a rarely seen pair of banded pigeons at the bird feeders. I look because I know I'm going to find something wonderful. Sometimes I only get chickadees or the skeleton of the snag sketched in silhouette or a face full of cottonwood fluff. Sometimes I get the larger magic of raptors or deer or a new wildflower. Always I receive something to rejoice about, because I looked and knew there would be something worth seeing.