Witnessed

It was dark

when I first heard Her

whooing overhead

bearing witness,

ushering in

the First of the

Harvest Moons.

The seasonal wheel turning towards

ripening fruit and seeds.

Summer’s Bounty.

This goddess, my mother,

is cloaked

in feathery mole brown splendor

a Sphinx flying

through the night.

S/he heralds the

Gift of Water

answering earnest prayers…

As ‘Changing Woman’ she brings rain

to soften cracked desert ground…

Greening every thirst driven plant pore.

And puddles formed

as rain barrels overflowed

And I was filled with Joy –

even before I started for

Red Willow River

under a pure white moon blossom

perched below a

down turned velvet bowl.

Hidden somewhere in a tangle of branches

She observed my approach…

And when I passed

under the Cottonwood tree

the Owl took flight.

Her wings

made no sound

when she landed

on a snag

above my head.

Steely yellow eyes glowing

Like coals – fiery

embers, Second Sight.

Presence flooded me

with wonder –

I knew Her well.

After this sudden burst of insight

I felt Her Love seeping through

this body birthed with holes.

Seen at last by my Beloved

I give thanks for

the Owl that

calls my name.

The Owl Place

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It was a beautiful black night peppered by only the brightest stars when I went outdoors to take a picture of the mysterious pearl white orb whose mystery still binds me to her and all women with wings – those women I love, the mother I lost, and of course, all birds.

The deep ‘whooing’ of the Great Horned owls began shortly afterwards just as I got into bed and continued for about fifteen minutes while I reflected upon the remarkable day…

“Who whooo who who,” the harmonious conversation between the two owls filled my heart to overflowing.

Nature was offering me yet another gift on this night of December’s cold, frost, snow, or winter full moon according to various Indigenous traditions.

The day before, my kindred spirit, (Iren’s words) had suggested this canyon as a safe place to walk my two little dogs. My trust in this woman runs deep and so we set out yesterday on a mild December afternoon following a sandy arroyo back into the hills. The serpentine rock strewn path eventually led to a roughly textured column of immense curtained sandstone structures, a couple with deep hollows carved and sculptured by the wind.

Climbing inside the one I could reach to investigate, I immediately noticed a couple of crumbling owl pellets realizing that I must have accidentally stumbled on an owl’s roost, and probable nesting place although it was impossible to see where the structure might be located behind the undulating sandstone curtains.

Excitedly I began to examine the pellets. By the size of the skulls, jaw bone, leg bones and other fragments I reached the conclusion that this must be a Great Horned Owl’s place of residence. Delighted by the find, it was a moment before I saw the distinctive horizontal barred feather resting in the rubble.

I was overcome by joy. Discovery is a magical process and this experience occurring on the afternoon of the eve of the Full Moon felt like a precious gift. I carefully picked up the feather, and a few bone fragments to bring home with me giving the place two names “Owl Canyon” and the “Owl’s Place” feeling ever so grateful that I could visit here again and again, should I chose.

As often is the case here in Abiquiu, I felt like I was walking on hallowed ground. Some of this sensing/feeling comes from being able to disappear into wilderness in minutes with deep silence, the footprints of wild cats, coyotes, and the occasional soaring raven my only companions.

Except for the owls who are hidden from sight…Owls who understand that Silence is a Gift.

I am truly only at peace in the wild.

Last night I fell asleep thinking about owls, how some had moved into my woods in Maine just this fall and how it seemed to me that they had followed me here to the high desert…

Just before dawn this morning when I walked my dogs I was startled to hear an ongoing call made by a solitary Great Horned owl, surely the most ancient image (and almost always maligned) of a “woman with wings.” I looked over the stark ridges of the reptilian mountains to the Owl’s Place and silently wished the owl good morning as my body was flooded by the comfort that only deep communion can bring.

Because we are all interconnected I am positive that an ancient multitude of women with wings from every continent keeps watch over us all.

The Dove and the Owl: Moving Beyond Childhood Fear

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(my dove Lily b sitting on his perch)

 

For the past few weeks I have had Great Horned owls calling around the house, for the first time ever. For many years I have seen them soaring low through the hemlocks on a nearby logging road after being mobbed by crows, but last winter all those old hemlocks were cut down. Today there is a hole in the sky where those elders once stood. Where did the owls go I wondered the first time I witnessed the devastating loss of these most gracious of evergreens that provided protection and food for so many woodland birds and animals.

 

Now, I think, they moved here.

 

Most amazing to me is that Lily b my dove is returning these evening calls by cooing back! This blending of voices between predator and prey captivates me. I know from living with Lily b for 25 years that he normally reacts to the presence of avian predators with stony silence.

 

Why is Lily b having conversations with these birds? The most rational explanation is that Lily b answers because he feels like it and knows he is safe in the house. Yet I am not satisfied; it feels like something else is going on here (He never cooed in response to the barred owls that called each night for years when they inhabited this patch of woods).

 

I have a long history with Great Horned owls that stretches back to my childhood, one that includes my relationship with my mother who often painted them. As a child I was frightened by these images of the Great Horned owl, probably because I was afraid of my mother.

 

During the span of my adult life I have rarely heard this owl hoot in the forest up until this fall, when these birds congregated around the house the night before a bear was shot in mid September, and then on the eve of my birthday when they once again engaged in animated conversation that lasted almost an hour.

 

I experienced gut level fear the first time this happened even as Lily cooed back and forth with the owls. The bear in question survived being shot, so my initial fearful reaction to the hooting was wrong…The night before my birthday it was impossible for me to ignore the possibility that my mother, in the form of an owl she once loved, had come to visit me. I felt confusion rising while listening to Lily b converse with the owls a second time because the symphony was quite beautiful.

 

Lily b is a telepathic bird who regularly comments on what I am thinking, and the fact that I was initially alarmed by the owl convocation while he was cooing in response might have been his way of telling me that in this case I had nothing to fear.

 

The longer I reflect upon this idea the more I think it might be true.

 

Now as the night closes in I listen to the owls calling back and forth and feel a strange sense of comfort.

 

What I appreciate the most is that the deep haunting hoots of these majestic birds evoke the mysteries of the forest and not old childhood fears.

Omen: Owl Convocation

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In the still autumn night

crickets chirp at

the forested edge,

the child and I stand rooted.

When we hear three voices cry out,

“woo whoo

whoo whooh – awhooh” –

we understand

a convocation of owls

calls us to evening prayer.

 

Straining to hear,

I open the window

wide with wonder

just like the child who is

soothed by the sound of brook waters

sliding over moss covered stone.

Our golden apple tree breathes in sweet night air.

The chorus of Great Horned Owls begins again.

 

Memory strikes the dark mother chord

hidden deep within.

Fear leaps out like a roaring tiger

claws extended, with piercing eyes,

becomes embodied.

A stone.

 

Owls come to those who need them,

Send messages of Flight

to the cosmos, seeking spirals,

that may or may not exist.

No wonder the experience

of human fright seems surreal.

 

Great Horned Owls

are messengers

sent from the Great Beyond.

Tecolate, Indigenous people call them

heeding their words,

turning heads away.

 

Transmitting Light through Sound

Owls hoot to warn,

to comfort, to heal,

to eventually transform.

 

One year ago this month,

a great horned owl landed on

on my bird’s cage.

And my dove nearly lost his life…

 

What am I to make

of such a visitation

from these three Old Women

hidden

in feathered apparel?

The child fears death

for her beloved bear.

I cringe with fright.

for an aging body,

a wounded bear.

 

How do I deal

with knowing that

we have been invaded?

Or that death may be near?

 

I have no answers.

I will not comfort the child

with promises I cannot keep.

“Only change is constant,”

I hug her as we weep.

 

Whatever the outcome

We will search out Love

in a ground of red ash,

brown dirt, “our mothers,”

include a generous hearted man,

and the planting of single apple seed.

 

I remind the child what her bones know:

(if she could remain sewn inside her skin)

That Earth has always been our Mother

that the Great Bear can bring us peace.

 

“Who whoo, who whoo, who hooh, ahooh…”

This trio of owls witness deep distress,

Responding thrice with voices that remind us

that neither bear, woman, or child

will walk our path alone.

Postscript:

When I was a small child my mother, an artist, used to draw great horned owls, and I started drawing them too. I feared this particular owl. Through all of my adulthood I associated great horned owls with my mother with whom I had a most difficult and confusing relationship.

Twice a Great Horned Owl came to warn me of impending death.

Here in this mountain valley I used to have barred owls who hunted at dusk, and although I loved them they also carried messages I didn’t want to hear.

Two nights ago a convocation of Great Horned owls gathered just beyond my house (this has never happened before in 30 years). Their beautiful calls initially captivated me although I could feel another more somber message coming through the night air. Later, coyotes sang.