"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

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Owl Magic

The school year is nearly over. Walt's last day with kids is next Tuesday. And so ends my first year out of the classroom. Even though I knew last June that this year would not unfold in the way I was picturing at the time (because nothing does), I wasn't prepared for just how different the reality has turned out to be.

This has been the year of closed doors, explorations run into dead ends, and more quiet and stillness than I've known in decades. It's been a year of shedding old roles and identities, and living with the naked discomfort of the space before new skin grows back. It's been a year of redefining God.

And the closer I get to the end of the year, the more I struggle with the fear that I've wasted the time and opportunity and gifts. I have no concrete evidence that the year was a success – or a failure. What I seem to have is a vast expanse of myself, and possibilities I don't understand, and that still small voice in the softest of whispers reassuring me that this is exactly where I need to be.

Yesterday I was walking Toby, soaking up the warmth and shifting sunlight, and I looked for my owl friend as we came into the clearing where he's appeared before.

A week after I saw the fledgling for the first time, I saw him again, perched on top of one of the flag poles that back the fire pit and benches where campers gather for evening ceremonies. I sat then and watched him for the longest time, thrilled beyond words at the luxury of meditating on this amazing bird.  I looked for him there every time after that, and hadn't seen him again.

Until yesterday. And even though I was looking for him, I was startled to see him perched exactly where I expected to see him. And sleeping. His head was turned away and he didn't turn around until Toby crashed through the brush. He blinked a few times, watched me for a bit, and then went back to sleep.

I quietly called Toby to me, left the meadow as quickly as I could, and trucked up the hill toward home. I grabbed my camera, hooked a confused but happy Toby back up to the leash and headed back down, praying he'd still be there.

He was. Still sleeping. Although he woke up and watched me warily when I started taking pictures. When I was done, I sat on one of the benches, and just watched him.

It was at that point, on a random June Monday afternoon, sitting in sunshine and a kissing breeze, in the company of my dog and an owl, that something shifted for me. The freedom of time and no schedule that allowed me to be in that place and time. The stillness that allowed me to not only see the owl, but to be with him for as long as I wanted. The knowing that this was my new normal, a significant part of God's voice and presence, a gift beyond price.

A year has passed, unfolded, been lived. The success of it cannot be measured in work accomplished or test scores or a book born. The success is experienced as being a person able to be in complete presence, awe and gratitude at the wonder and magic of whatever the world has to offer.


Suzy said...

I believe your year has been a year of discovery. Discovering your teaching abilities that have gone far beyond what they once were.
I agree, not only is this where you "need to be", it is where you deserve to be. Time, stillness, peace and regrouping are so very important. I am sure among those closed doors you mention are also a few hidden doors that are there and waiting.

Love you


Anonymous said...

Oh, Deb. You have captured it here so clearly. I am forced to take in huge breaths, just to process it.

"The freedom of time and no schedule that allowed me to be in that place and time. The stillness that allowed me to not only see the owl, but to be with him for as long as I wanted."

And, I might add, the patience to wait for the rest to be revealed. And it will be.

I have complete confidence in you, and in your ability to find your success in all its measures.

Janna Qualman said...

Incredible, Deb, to think that full year has passed.

But you're right, it's been lived. Life is the most important thing that could have happened, and it did.

What will your plans be from here?

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Sounds like a successful year to me. How much I've enjoyed your year off. Wasted - not for a second. Fascinating to have traveled this ride with you.

Seems like the year has gone the way writing often takes off. Our characters head off in directions we had no idea possible. We sit back and think - how do I deal with that? Then, we move forward, or sideways.

Lovely reflection.

Linda Myers said...

Oh, thank you. After a whole year off, the discovery!

I leave my work two weeks from Friday. I will be in the beginning of my first year off.

Pam said...

I know I have said this before but I learn so much here Deb, and as Jan commented, I am often breathless at the perceptiveness you display in your writing. I tend to make excuses for people and myself, but the concept in your previous post about "a strenth overused becoming a weakness" had me gratefully stunned. Instead of me thinking about certain people I've come across, who's assertiveness borders on bullying with my silent observation that they are actually, as far as getting the work done, good at their job, or in family settings, someone would be lost without them,I have realized that yes, they are quite tyrannical and a little too good at what they do! I couldn't put my finger on it, but your wise friend has summed it up beautifully.This post is great reading also. Slowing down and actually relishing a change of pace for me, was when I gave up work to stay at home to spend more time with my daughter (and pets!).I had no car, we walked everywhere (her pace) and I realized I was in the world of animal and child time. It was wonderful! We all benefitted from those years.Thank you Deb for sharing your insights.

Wanda said...

I so related to your post. I just ended my first year of not having the responsibility of watching my grandchildren, putting them on the bus each morning, having them after school and watching them all summer. I missed them terribly, but it has given me an even greater sense of Now, the Moment!

I had provided care for different grandchildren for 21 years...it was very rewarding...but now I have the freedom of time to watch and to be silent and listen to my new normal too. I even posted... several weeks ago...the call of an owl I heard in my woods !

Lovely writing, Deb!

Piecefulafternoon said...

That first year is life changing, isn't it? I was pushed into my first year of stillness - I went flailing and kicking and almost screaming - and then it unrolled before me - this year of NOT doing - and I am happy and at peace. My first year ends in early September - and I'm looking forward to what the second year brings. Here's the best to you and your next year.

Journaling Woman said...

Emerson said of success,“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

From me: Don't measure one success with another. You made a difference as a teacher, you make a difference as a "civilian". :)


Angie Ledbetter said...

Amen on this past years' graces, and all to come.

Nice that you had two of the oldest symbols accompanying you on your journey yesterday -- friendship and wisdom!

Jerri said...


It's so difficult to accept that the Universe unfolds at its own pace, it its own time. Learning to accept the grace of time can take a lifetime.

And some owl magic.

Blessings for the journey, dear friend.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"The freedom of time and no schedule that allowed me to be in that place and time. The stillness that allowed me to not only see the owl, but to be with him for as long as I wanted. The knowing that this was my new normal, a significant part of God's voice and presence, a gift beyond price."

Way beyond price, or measurement, way beyond "enough."

I love what Suzy, said, BTW, and agree.


Amber said...

You have no idea how often your journey this year has come into my own mind, when I am trying to figure my own self out. My own "moment". I mean it! So often! I love what you say here, and how you say it. What a blessing you are, for putting yourself out here for us. You just don't know how often you say things that stick with me for so long. Enjoy all of your moments.

love love love


Cheryl said...

What a beautiful post and amazing that it's the week to see night birds on both sides of the world. Your post has provoked deep thought in me. There is much going on in my life right now and I realise that though I retired from a high pressure life 10 years ago, I still have not found the peace you so clearly describe. The freedom to just be. Your year has been well spent indeed to reach this point that so few of us manage.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I love moments like that!

#1Nana said...

Yes! I retired last year quite suddenly and have spent a year adjusting to this new status. Your post expresses so many of the same questions I have asked myself. I have come to accept that it is okay for me to do only what makes me happy...and as I write that I realize it sounds so simply stupid. But it was hard for me to slow down and not have to do something. As I've visited other blogs of women of a certain age who are facing retirement or changed circumstances, I've noticed so many of us finding birds and wildlife interesting. (Currently I'm obsessing over the quail's nest in my backyard.)

I'm off to read more of your blog...I'm enjoying it so far.

K.M. Weiland said...

It's been an interesting year for me too. I'm sure I have spiritual stretch marks somewhere to prove it! But here it is summer again... and something about the light and the warmth and the colors always brings peace to my soul. Summer makes want to just "be still and know that He is God." Lovely feeling!

patti said...

Oh, MYYYYY! I LOVE owls.
There's nothing like the hoot to chill bump my arms in the middle of the night yet remind me of God's beautiful creation.

Love this post, too.

Julie Garst said...

You voiced exactly what I've been feeling and the words you used just popped off the page and into my heart. What a peacefulness I felt as they warmed the confused places in my life.
There definitely has been a "naked discomfort" this past year for me too and I appreciate knowing that I'm not alone. I'm being redefined and I'm not squirming under this as much as I was. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

Gammary said...

oh Deb
this is a beautiful post. I'm so proud of you and so proud to know you. I have actually been out of a work a day mode for eight (geez!) years. So much as happened, yet every time I wake to an empty day on the calendar, I panic and then curse myself at days end when I end up filling it with crap.

I do sing my do-be-do song, however. Is it the doing or is it be being....do or be..or does it matter. Maybe I should just sing.


Anonymous said...

Very nice. You wanted to be right where you were.

Rick said...

You are such a thoughtful person. I really enjoyed reading this post.

She Writes said...

Isn't it odd that some of the most meaningful years of our lives can't be recognized until years later? perhaps that is this year for you.

Kathryn Grace said...

"The success is experienced as being a person able to be in complete presence, awe and gratitude at the wonder and magic of whatever the world has to offer."

Tears in my eyes. Thank you.

Katie Gates said...

Stopping by from WOW, and that's my response: WOW. You write beautifully, and I look forward to reading more of your posts. In fact, I'm going to do that now!

Terri Tiffany said...

I love your voice:) Beautiful:)

Ask Me Anything said...

Oh my gosh,Deb, you are becoming enlightened. How awesome to be a witness.