Bird Droppings March 14, 2011
An owl calling
I wrote this a little over five years ago however last night early in the morning a great horned owl called several times waking me up and brought back many memories and thoughts. Combining that with a posting of a James Redfield quote and a friends comment on coincidence and it just seemed right to go back and edit a bit.
I sat listening as I do every morning today the leaves have filled the spaces between the twigs and my neighbors houses have disappeared. The sky is cloudy and over cast so light is limited this morning. When I first went out a faint chorus of crickets greeted me but off in the distance a great horned owl was calling. It has been several days since a student at school asked if I knew what an owl meant. It is funny how bits and pieces of memory come back.
Several times a student has reminded me to call her mother about the pow-wow coming up. Her mother coordinates the local Native American get togethers. Perhaps this is what got me thinking as many southeastern tribes consider the owl to be a harbinger of evil or dread. While for some tribes an owl calling was considered a sign of death, as you move across the Mississippi the various tribes attitude about owl’s changes. Owls become symbols of power of wisdom of a fine line between here and the spirit world.
Owls calling in the dark, it is a haunting sound for one person, darkness and a few days ride away the same haunting sounds bring light. As weather warms I hear owls nearly every morning often several will be calling to each other. It has been sometime since I was up in the North Georgia Mountains with my middle son on an environmental education field trip. We stayed at a spot I consider very special, Camp Mikel, a summer camp owned and operated by the Episcopal Church Arch Diocese of Atlanta.
The camp lies in a valley along two ridges. The cabins are on one ridge and across the fields and marsh another ridge and the camps famous cross on top of the mountain. The camp has an on going program with a group that provides for schools educational experiences in the mountains on habitat ecology and environmental workshops. It was about nine o’clock and our group went out onto the soccer playing fields with a tape recorder. We started calling owls. In a matter of a few minutes several were calling back. Owls in our area range from a tiny screech owl to the great horned owl.
One of our other exercises during the day was dissecting owl pellets. It seems owls eat various creatures and the parts which are not digested are literally barfed up in a ball and dropped usually at their roosting spot. Scientists can study diet and health of the owl population through the pellets. One of the students in our group as they opened up the brown mass of their pellet uncovered a skull. Soon several of us had found skulls of shrews and mice rats and squirrels. Our instructor was interested in this first one it was different and carefully cleaned it off. It was a screech owl skull. The great horned owl had devoured the smaller owl.
As I thought of my morning, pondering what the day would bring and listening to the Great horned owls calling all around me the sense of oneness with nature was over whelming. Back at that environmental retreat I did learn each owl has a very distinctive call. I was also intrigued at how we all surmise differences in the same stimuli, not only the owls and owls calling but it could be in words used in a hallway at school. One person hears humor another slander.
“The Lenape Indians believed that if they dreamt of an Owl it would become their guardian. To the Mojave Indians of Arizona, one would become an Owl after death, this being and interim stage before becoming a water beetle, and ultimately pure air. According to Navajo legend, the creator, Nayenezgani, told the Owl after creating it “…in days to come, men will listen to your voice to know what will be their future” California Newuks believed that after death, the brave and virtuous became Great Horned Owls. The wicked, however, were doomed to become Barn Owls. In the Sierras, native peoples believed the Great Horned Owl captured the souls of the dead and carried them to the underworld.” Deane P. Lewis, Owls in mythology
I was listening the other day to several students for one what appeared to be just a comment became words to fight for and I had to intercede. I listened as one of my students in a group exercise about the classic novel The Time Machine by H.G. Wells said if she could go back in time she would go back to the civil war and tell the south how to win the war. If she had been telling me that I would have expected it knowing her and her family but her group consisted of two afro-Americans and the comment offended them.
My student probably was not even aware of her comment being offensive; she has serious issues with social skills. But the same words in another group of students here in rural Georgia may have been accepted and applauded. It could be the same words and yet significantly different reactions in two different settings. I heard the owl and sought to listen deeper. How do I respond to a person who hears only the dark side and believes only darkness? How do we listen and try and rationalize words with so many meanings so many interpretations. A college student from South Georgia was writing about how we change society. I offered by example but that is so difficult only one person at a time. In life we interact each day. If we maintain our example and interact in genuine trust and honesty that connection will be seen and understood and eventually copied.
Not everyone will make the connection but some will and those will continue the call. I heard the owl today and I will listen tomorrow and I will tell others and maybe one day who knows. Take each moment and each second live as you whole heartedly believe and live with trust and set the example. Others will see and hear and soon two people and soon three and maybe before the end of our lifetimes we can all hear an owl in the same way. Maybe peace will be a word spoken and understood in the same manner tribe to tribe family to family person to person. Maybe the puzzle pieces will fall in place and the final picture will be one we all can be proud to have been a part of. So please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.