Two Owls and the Wild Geese
2013, late November — I was excitedly counting down the days to my fated appointment with the folks at the National Bank of Delhi who would guide me through the legal process of becoming the new owner of these seven hillside acres of woods, streams, and ponds—and also a sweet vintage dairy barn and 21-year old double-wide (aka a “manufactured house”). After five years of an interesting and often exciting Gypsy Life, I’d found my way home to Lightspring Glen, the name that had offered itself to me one night in a dream.
2020, late November — In this year in which all our lives have been turned upside down, we are arriving at the day so centered around “home”, Thanksgiving. With all the necessary restrictions imposed by the pandemic, this year the what and where of family-and-more gatherings is for most a daunting prospect to determine.
A most meaningful story of “home” for me arrived on owl wings. Over the seven years here in Lightspring Glen, I’ve had marvelous and often magickal encounters with the Wild Ones who also call this place Home. Out for my morning walk last Sunday, one such encounter awaited me. Sharing it on FaceBook I wrote, “Something so wonderful happened on this morning’s Woods Ramble. Standing on the Sacred Mound where I offer prayers for the new day, I was most fortunately looking out in the “right direction” as I chanted and so witnessed the silent arrival of a Barred Owl who landed on a pine branch barely 20 feet from me. It took my breath away. S/he “took me in” with those fathomless black eyes as I stood as still as I could. I decided to talk to her/him quietly and s/he kindly accepted this, I felt, turning her head about scanning the woods and then looking back at me with such meaningful intent. Nearly five minutes of this Visitation and s/he launched herself from the branch sailing silently off into the deeper woods. Seven years ago one of her Kin greeted me on the first visit I made here, a thrill I will never forget…….perhaps this was an anniversary Hello of sorts.”
Coming back to the house filled with this experience, I thought about the little owl rescued from the Rockefeller Christmas tree just days before. I live barely 20 miles from Oneonta, NY where the 75-foot-tall spruce tree was taken down and shipped to NYC. Most will likely know something of the story of the little owl’s rescue, a saw whet owl who gained the name “Rockefeller” in the process. Kind people carefully conveyed her to a wildlife center for recovery with the able work of wildlife rehabilitator, Ellen Kalish. There was a debate about bringing her back to Oneonta for release. After all, wasn’t this her home, we wondered? But as saw whet owls are migratory, the decision was made to set her free near the wildlife center. That moment was described on National Geographic’s page: “On Friday, [Nov. 20th] Kalish moved Rocky to an outdoor practice cage so she could acclimate and Kalish could monitor her flight. By Tuesday at dusk, she seemed ready to go. Kalish brought Rocky to a clearing of a nearby conifer forest, removed her from her carrier and raised her toward the sky. Rocky sat perched on Kalish’s hand for several moments, surveying her surroundings. Then, she flew off, settling in a nearby pine tree.” (link to the full article is below with a photo of that moment)
Like us, Rocky’s world was dramatically upended by unforeseen events. Impossible to overlook is that it was her human neighbors who created the havoc, however unintended. The tree crew was quite upset they’d overlooked her despite the careful search always done in trees taken down. A beautiful and almost miraculous outcome was nonetheless managed by humans, so that as I write this today, wee Rocky is traveling free somewhere in her home of sky and woodlands.
As we “harbor in place” at home for this Thanksgiving or find safe ways to travel and safely gather, the vast and challenging journey we are on together through this year continues to unfold. We are most certainly all in this together, fractious though this assembly may be a lot of the time. I have hopes that we have what it takes to make it through successfully and do so in a united effort. All the way along we are blessed to be companioned by the wonderful Beings domestic and wild with whom we share this beautiful world. Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem, “Wild Geese”, offers promise of such hope and a wondrous sense of creature comfort.
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -- over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
Bright blessings for your Thanksgiving and the Sacred Season that culminates this and every year. And stay safe…….