18 April 2006

Owls

Woke up early-early this morning, which isn’t terribly unusual for me. I don’t sleep much anyway and pregnancy means sleeping less at a time (though naps are more frequent). Went through all the motions of “getting back to sleep”, which is usually futile and proved to be again this morning – although not for the usual reasons.

April participates in the rare few weeks in The South when you can have your windows open at night. (The rest of the time they have to be locked tight against “cold” or suffocating heat.) Consequently, our windows were open in the early-early as I stumbled around piles of laundry and various toys to the bathroom and back. The sky was lightening, but still mostly grey-black, and there were lots and lots of birds starting up with their morning sing-a-long.

Hoping to fool myself into another hour or so of rest, I lay down and attempted to get comfortable (this proves more impossible every day, but one must try). I snuggled the husband, closed my eyes, pulled the covers up to my chin (it was that cool) and breathed deep.

To no avail, of course.

The baby kicked and flopped around, my back complained about the inadequacy of the mattress and then my stomach insisted it was breakfast time. Pretty soon, I was just lying there waiting for 6AM (it seems indecent to get up before then if you don’t really have to) – and that’s when I heard them.

Owls.

At first, I thought it was a mourning dove (hey, it was early), but the more I listened, the more it sounded owlish. After a while, I decided that the first part of the song was definitely an owl, though the end was so low and mournful, I still wasn’t sure. I got up and went to the window and listened some more and finally realized it was TWO owls – the first one close and the second further away and answering it. (I suppose it sounded lower because of the Doppler effect??)

I stayed kneeling at the window a long time hoping to catch them in flight – there is nothing like seeing an owl in flight. They are totally silent and unless you happen to be looking, they could fly right over your head and you’d never know they were there.

I saw a group of them flying together once when I was hiking through Virginia. We had camped on an embankment just above a road cut that went through a gap (low spot in the ridge). I don’t remember why we were still outside. Normally, by dark we would have been in bed, but we had probably hiked late to make some miles.

We heard them before we saw them. Hooting came toward us down the ridge we had descended a couple hours earlier and we stood transfixed by the sound. It was eerie in the falling dark, echoing off the ridges, yet strangely muffled by the heavy pine woods. I remember being rooted to the spot, staring at the still, grey sky, just waiting as the hooting got louder and louder.

Quite suddenly they appeared out of the trees, four or five of them flying no more than a wing length apart. They were huge and close. Since we were 10 feet or so above the road on the embankment, they were only 20 or 30 feet away and practically at eye-level.

Except for calling back and forth to each other, they made no noise at all – no wing beats, no rush of air, nothing. It was weird, magical and almost unreal.

They were gone in less than a minute. They flashed though the patch of open sky above the road cut, hooting to each other, and disappeared up the other side of the ridge, their calls fading as the stars began popping out in the blackened sky. We stood still and silent for a long time, hoping they’d come back. They didn’t, but I’ll never forget them.

Coincidentally, perhaps, (although I don’t believe in coincidence, really), another kind of owl reappeared in my life just yesterday. This one’s the logo of the summer camp I went to in high school – a place that saved my sanity and maybe even my life.

I got an email from an old friend who went to this summer camp with me. She had been e-invited to a camp reunion and didn’t see my name on the list – seems I had been “lost” for a while. Well, I went to the e-vite and there was this list of names, names connected to people I hadn’t seen or thought about in years and years, people who had become brothers and sisters to my soul back in the days when my soul badly, badly needed them.

OK, sappy, I admit. But it was also weird, magical and almost unreal to have all these memories flooding back into my mind of this time and this place and all these fabulous people who were so important to me. I’ve already heard from two of them and I emailed another myself. It strikes me that I should connect back up with these people at this particular time in my life when - as I was in high school - I am trapped in a place I can't stand and can't leave. Yet, anyway.

In the meantime, I’ll watch for my owls in the early-early. I’ll be lucky if I see them, but even if I don't, it is mighty good to know that they’re around.

4 comments:

Bethanie said...

Postscript: One of my mothers-in-law gave Ms. Three a book and guess what it was about. Owls. Freaky. Just freaky.

Queen K said...

Wow - beautiful! It's always incredible when a new totem animal shows up to lead you somewhere...it all floods at you when you start seeing them everywhere. Owls are so incredible....lucky you!

Leslie said...

As the old friend mentioned here, I just thought I'd poke my head in and say hello. I'm following your lead and have started a blog (like, just this afternoon)- I really like reading yours (didn't know you had an extended audience, didjya?) and was inspired by a mix of a need for connection and expression and an excuse to procrastinate while looking like I'm working on something. Anyhoo... here I am again.

Bethanie said...

leslie - welcome, welcome! Feel free to drop by anytime! Can't wait to check out your blog! :) -b