Bird Droppings February 29, 2012
An owl calling
Last night I woke for a few minutes my wife thought I had left the burner on with a pot still on the stove I had cooked up my world famous chicken and rice for dinner. While up I stuck my nose out the door perhaps intuition who knows when wandering about the house half asleep. Deep in the pines an owl called and of all memories to unlock an instance three years ago flashed before my mind’s eye. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon a little over three years ago I was made aware of a situation that at first caught me by surprise. A former student from years gone by had been arrested in another county and was being held for immigration to be deported. She had been in the US since she was three years old and was raising her three kids here. As it turns out she had never received a green card and her boyfriend of seven years as well was illegal. Both had worked and she had graduated from high school where I knew her as a student. I was asked to go see her as along with all of this she has a specific learning disability in reading.
I seldom bring up being ordained but being ordained has certain privileges and after all scheduled visitors are permitted into the jail pastors can go in. So I went in and I visited for nearly forty five minutes with one of my favorite students of all time at the county detention center. We talked about how seven years ago she had come to me with a big what if. She proceeded to tell me a friend of hers is pregnant and what could she do and who should she go to. It only took a few minutes till I realized the friend was actually herself. I recalled how she sat on the sofas in my room propping her feet up as she completed school while pregnant and would come in my room to rest.
She nearly came to tears as started talking about her babies who I have pictures of hanging on my door at school and have held and laughed with several times. I said no crying since I did not want to cry in front of a former student. We talked about jail food and how as soon as she was out she wanted a homemade tortilla and eggs and all the trimmings. It was nearly nine when I walked the almost half mile from the visiting room to my car which in my haste had locked my car keys in and had to have a police officer help me get into. As I drove home I recalled all of the publicity of illegal aliens and immigration laws and how business men provide jobs at a cheaper rate. A recent article on banks in bailout of applying for nearly twenty one thousand visas for white collar positions since they can get foreigners for less money in attorney and accounting positions over US citizens.
I thought of a young girl who had worked and had finished school and raised three kids and was being held because of where she had been born not where she was raised and grew up and gone to school and yet we have people receiving huge bonuses who created and caused one of the worst financial crisis’s in history walking around free and going on vacation. I was mad when I got home thinking of how greed had driven our society to where it was.
I wrote some of this a little over three 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 beyond the memories of a wonderful person who had been sitting in a jail cell away from her kids.
I sat listening even though half asleep as I do every morning and today the pine needles have made a lace pattern in the spaces between the twigs against the clarity of the sky. The sky is cold and clear and stars are everywhere as I wandered out. When I first went out a faint chorus of crickets greeted me or so I thought but it was the cold ringing in my ears, but off in the distance a great horned owl called. 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.
It was not all that long ago that several times a student reminded me to call her mother about the pow-wow coming up in the spring. Her mother coordinates the local Native American gatherings and dances. 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 eastern tribes an owl calling was considered a sign of death, as you move across theMississippithe 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 and darkness yet a few days ride away the same haunting sounds bring light. As the weather warms up I will hear owls nearly every morning often several will be calling to each other. It has been sometime since I was up in theNorthGeorgiaMountainswith my middle son on an environmental field trip. We stayed at a spot I consider very special, Camp Mikel, a summer camp owned and operated by the Episcopal 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 ongoing program with a group that provides for school educational experiences in the mountains on habitat ecology and environmental workshops. It was about nine o’clock and our group went out onto the 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 my 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 several years ago 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 ruralGeorgiamay have been accepted and applauded. It could have been the exact same words and yet a significantly different reaction. 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 fromSouth Georgiawas 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 times 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 harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks.
PS. My former student who I visited in jail after several thousands of dollars and an attorney and several intense weeks she received a permanent visa card as did her boyfriend now husband.