As an earthwalker, I am simply passing through the world. I am fascinated by each step. Watching and observing, the world and nature. Chaos and quiet, light and dark. To me the rhythm of the world is a meditation in itself.
Last night I listened to an opera: two barred owls singing a duet outside my window. Their refrain, “Who? Who? Who cooks for you?” Play their song here…
This pair is likely mated for life, and I wonder if there is such a thing as owl love?
We live in cities, cut off from the natural world, and we forget where we come from. Yet, with greenways and parks, creatures steal into our neighborhoods. So I step into the night and let my eyes adjust. A dark shape glides to a perch on a leafless branch not fifty feet away. It joins another shape. They know I am there, but are now quiet and watchful. In the half dark, I can see their faces, the color of moonlight. Soon they pass again into the night, first one and then the other following. I am left alone with the echo of their song.
In some Native American mythology, the owl can be a sign of death or bad luck. The Greeks believed owls were a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. Early depictions of Athena are often with an owl perched on her hand. Whatever meaning we prescribe, I am guessing they are a reflection of our own hopes, fears and desires.
I know lots of facts about owls. Barred owls can rotate their heads up to 270 degrees. Fourteen neck vertebrae (compared with our seven) help with them accomplish this feat. They’ve evolved to do this because their eyes are fixed and don’t move.
The silence of their wings is an evolutionary adaptation of small barbs on the leading edge of each flight feather. These break up the airflow over their wings and reduce any noise. It allows them to be stealthy hunters. Their brains have neural adaptations for sound and their ears are large and offset so they can locate prey in the dark.
Facts give me the temporary illusion of knowledge, but do nothing to help me understand the “why” of owls or how we allow them to reflect ourselves.
For me, in the quiet city night, next to a forest park, owls are a reminder that we are part of the earth. And in this, they are beautiful.
We Are All Connected. Savor the Earth!
L. Hobart Stocking
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