On an autumn day over six-years-ago, the path around my old neighborhood is foggy and crispy with falling leaves. I am on a morning walk with my dog Maya. We are joined by a large Labrador mix named Bo. Bo is my neighbor’s dog and he loves tagging along on early morning strolls. This walk is a part of my daily ritual and I have an hour of quiet before my hectic day begins.
I am in the “zone” of walking and inhaling the rich earthen air, relishing my stolen moment of aloneness. I am a woman who is juggling a full life complete with an overburden husband and a displaced stepson and these walks are my solace. I march around the corner onto Lee street and a dark figure crosses my path, circling and then descending onto the road. Large, russet, foreboding, confused- like he doesn’t know how he landed right in front of me, an owl, a colossal figure with large yellow eyes that focus upon me. I utter under my breath, “This can’t be good”. A flash of memory comes rushing towards me of one of my grandmothers. Parlee says an owl that is seen in daylight means death of a loved one. She calls these birds hobgoblin owls. She knows all about folklore and signs.
The owl and I stand there for a moment, motionless staring at each other. Even the dogs are frozen, until Bo emerges from his trace and rushes towards this bird, who immediately flies away up into a tree. The owl is sitting up on a limb and far away from me now, but still staring as if he knows something that I do not yet know.
Trees surround my house and they are home to a variety of animals, so hearing the hoot of an owl at night is common, but seeing an owl during the day is a different matter. A little superstition runs in my family and my encounter with this bad omen makes my entire body shudder and gives me goosebumps. Of course, I am a sane person. I know there could be more rational reasons for seeing this creature, such as he is sick, hunting, or simply that he is flying to a new nest. The dogs and I resume our walk, and I carry on with the rest of my day. November moves swiftly along. Sometimes on my way home, I look for that owl, but I never see him again.
After my husband died that December, people eventually got around to asking me if I had any warning that something was wrong. I said “no” but what I wanted to say was: “Well I did see an owl one morning while I was walking…” but I stop myself because I know how utterly insane that would sound. But truly, that was my first hint that something terrible was going to happen.
It is a little disturbing to know that this courier of tragedy could come in the form of a winged creature. However, I have decided to accept my owl messenger, and anyway, I think there is more to this bird. Athena has a companion owl on her shoulder, which revels unseen truths to her. Arianrhod, a Welsh goddess, shapeshifts into an owl and with her large owl eyes, sees into the darkness of the human soul. She moves with strength and purpose through the night and her wings spread comfort, solace and healing to those who seek her. Owls see what others cannot and I am fortunate to have had this creature look me in the eye on that autumn day and try to warn and even protect me from the dangers to come.
The other night as I lay in bed, an owl called out and another answered from a distant yard, the rhythms of their voices were like a lullaby, singing me into a deep sleep.