"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

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.

15 comments:

Deb said...

Sigh. I do miss my long walks by the river. A severe shortage of time is to blame. The photo of the forest where you walk looks so lovely and lush.

Wanda said...

I love seeing through your eyes.

Jessica Nelson said...

Lovely post! I think it makes God so happy when we look at life and think of Him.
Your walks sound really peaceful. :-)

Wanda said...

I have experienced the same in my walks in the woods...the being still, feeling so alive and aware...listening to the loud silence of the woods, it's very spiritual. I agree there is always something to see.
♥...Wanda

Piecefulafternoon said...

Oh what wonderful walks - to be aware and enjoy each wonder. Thanks for sharing.

Jerri said...

Isn't it fascinating that you never saw an owl when you believed you couldn't?

Now you see wonder because you believe you can.

Reminds me of a song Michelle O'Neil introduced me to--"Everything Is Holy Now."

Julie Garst said...

"Always I receive something to rejoice about, because I looked"....

Thanks Deb for teaching me to look with anticipation again.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"Always I receive something to rejoice about, because I looked and knew there would be something worth seeing."

I'll give that a big amen!

Terri Tiffany said...

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.

Your descriptions amaze and overwhelm me. I would give anything to be able to describe the way you do:)
I loved the way you summed this piece up. Perfect:)

Amber said...

"Always I receive something to rejoice about, because I looked and knew there would be something worth seeing. "---

Love.

:)

patti said...

Oh, Deb, I LOVEEEEE owls so much.
One year at Green Lake in Wisconsin we espied a pair hooting at each other. The precious little barred owls...and my precious grown-up teenagers, running through the woods for the last time together at our summer place...

The sound makes me tear up.

Patti

Jody Hedlund said...

How thrilling to continue to see the owls, Deb! It is amazing what we can begin to see when we slow down and focus. So often we're just busy "doing" things, like "taking a walk" that we forget to really live in the moment.

Kathryn Grace said...

"I looked and knew there would be something worth seeing."

Perhaps not intended, but a wonderful life lesson. Thank you, and thank you for the lovely walk and the owls.

Carol............. said...

I enjoy your writing as well as your photos.

That owl's a hoot! LOL

kario said...

Thanks for taking us on a walk with you. I'd love to bring my puppy down this summer and have the four of us go for real.

Love you.