Seeing what we want to see… Or not

I’ve been thinking a lot about Henrietta’s Favorite Shady Spot, where I could reliably find at least one owl for most of the summer of 2016. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the fact that I haven’t found owls there this year. It clearly isn’t just a preferred daytime sitting spot. In retrospect, I think it was actually the case that McFeely and Negri were around the immediate vicinity far longer than I imagined, and that particular branch was a comfortable perch in the general area when needed for the parent on duty.

And that’s kind of my story with these birds. There was one owl. Then there were two. Then there was Trolley, and a week after he emerged from his hole he was gone… I thought. But the absence was in my watching, not his actual leaving. When I learned to watch a bit more closely, McFeely and Negri gave me weeks of additional owl joy. And even still, I think I quit looking too soon.

It seems too easy to look for Meaning-capital-m in owls and find that it has to do with better observation. But that is undoubtedly a huge part of what these birds have come to mean to me.

Tonight my husband said “There are lots of owl noises in the yard. Really lots.” So out I went to offer my limbs to the mosquitos in the hopes of, well, observing. And I met only silence. I was reminded that barely a year ago my beloved husband couldn’t tell an owl hoot from a mourning dove and would often come get me when he’d heard the latter. But I trusted, and I sat, and I watched.

And then the automatic lights dimmed, and across the yard, as if it had only been waiting for deeper darkness, swooped an owl.

I have no idea which owl it was, and it made no noise. But it wasn’t a hunting dive, that swoop. It was a gentle glide through the open space of our yard that a strong bird could easily avoid by flying mere feet higher. And so I’m choosing to take it as a message, and to share it as such: my owls say hello, to all of us who are waiting and observing.

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