Tuesday, January 12, 2016
About That Owl
But for weeks I wish it had. I got overly attached, which is what I do.
He returned regularly for a while. I liked his scratching outside the window. I appreciated his evening hoots. I marveled at his enormous wingspan whenever I saw him glide over the house. He became more than a rare snowy owl sighting.
He became my owl.
I'm forever looking for metaphors or tokens that, strung together by my imagination, indicate goodness surrounds me and that a wonderful change is in the air.
My fluffy bliss was short lived, however. I started worrying about where he'd live once he couldn't get back in our roof. Given half a chance, I'd have built a tiny tree house and outfitted it with an upholstered chair and end table for his teacup. I'd needlepoint him a pillow with something appropriate from Thoreau. I'd hope for Winnie-the-Pooh to become his best friend. I played out adorable, impossible scenarios.
Then one day I drove down a different street from my usual route and saw something fluffy and white balled up at the curb near our house. My heart sank. For years I've willed myself to look away from road kill. The bodies of countless squirrels and cats and deer haunt me. I always whisper a prayer for each, but I was too distraught over this one: my owl.
Hours later I was still upset. I decided to return to be certain it was my owl. Then I'd ask Cliff to retrieve him for burial in our garden. A miraculous bird deserved that.
I drove to the spot. Nothing. I turned around and went by again. Not a trace.
Most people would shrug and move on. Not me. I worried for days. I agonized to Cliff, who patiently reminded me that the owl was never my responsibility to protect and added, "If that's what you actually saw in the street." I was convinced I had. It was the worst possible omen--the Ohio equivalent to a Greek soothsayer, tragically predicting darkness for my remaining days.
Try as they might, Cliff and Maggie were unable to talk me down. My friend Colin, who had been a biology/poetry major, made some headway. First he pointed out the rarity of owl road kill. "They're too smart," he wrote. Then he moved from reality into literary territory and suggested I consider the owl as a welcoming presence, there to greet us for our good housing choice. Work accomplished, he moved on.
So it dawned on me finally. Maybe the fluffy white object, that I failed to examine closely, had been the winter muffler of someone visiting the museum. Realizing they'd dropped it, they returned for it before I drove by again. When I tried this theory on Cliff, he said, "And there were no feathers in the street, were there?"
Given the space, changing the way I think about something is that simple. Someone famous (Twain? Shakespeare?) is credited with this truth: "Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so." Too much imagination is not necessarily a gift.
So I'm holding onto the long odds here.
I did indeed experience something wild that traditionally lives in the Arctic Circle, a far cry from the Midwest. He could have rested anywhere, but he stopped at our house, a next-to-impossible visitor who slept in our rafters. He left two feathers behind for me.
That alone ought to be goodness enough to last my lifetime. And a true sign that wonderful change is always in the air.
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