Not so many years ago I found a dead great-horned owl near my home. Earlier that morning I diverted from my usual daily route, and inexplicably took an out of the way walk around the baseball field, where I found the enormous creature lying on the grass at the edge of the field.
I ran to get the manager of the adjacent park building. When he scooped the bird into a large, black shiny garbage bag I broke down, sobs shaking my chest. I insisted on taking the bird to the wildlife center across the bridge, for testing. When I gathered the bird and the garbage bag it filled my arms like carrying a large toddler, but it was as light as a pillow.
I’ll never forget the heaviness of that moment, the deep grief, and the paradox of holding something so big that weighed so little.
This moment is a weighty one. Each day feels like a week. The world has turned upside down.
As we struggle to navigate the paradoxes of fear around the pandemic, my head is full of truth and hope.
Report Dead Owls
History teaches us that before healing can occur we must understand the realities and lived experience of the people in our communities. This means reporting what may be a grim reality of what we’ve experienced. The fear of a first responder after her colleagues have fallen sick. The SOS call of a ship captain. The sudden job loss. The defeat of trying to care for a sick wife and child, while ill. The unease of working an essential job with lots of people contact and high risk, and the loneliness of returning to an empty house.
Others need to hear your story of this time. I don’t mean amplifying fear by telling and retelling the stories of others heard online. Rather acknowledging the pain, the grief, and the suffering that is uniquely ours to witness, and telling the story that must be told. Not to linger in this dark place, but tell so that others may understand and we can move forward together.
My best friend is sick. Last week I was overcome with grief at the thought of losing her. Today she is feeling better.
And the owl near my home? He died after hemorrhaging inside from eating a poisoned rat. (Poison used by neighbors continues to kill local wildlife).
Our family has a nightly ritual of saying what we’re grateful for at the dinner table. Sometimes one of my boys will insist they are grateful for “nothing” to rise a grimace from their parents – but most days each will produce an item or two, and lately I’ve been recounting my own longer list each evening. Small moments, conversations with neighbors, an abundance of vegetables.
And every day I am grateful for the baby owls (or technically, owlets!).
After years of not returning to their favorite nesting tree (perhaps missing one of the mating pair after the death, or due to the construction at the adjacent recreation center) a mama owl appeared just weeks ago, along with three adorable fuzzy gray baby owlets.
I go see them at least twice a day – so much that the dog actively hides from me on the front porch to avoid excessive walks. The owlets are amazing – the way they bob their heads to get a curious view at the gawkers below, and their dark eyes that peer down amongst all the fuzz.
They bring me so much joy – and I will gladly tell anyone walking by the amazing moment to be shared that is right above their heads – if only they will pause and take the time to look upwards, at the right angle.
Of course, many folks still jog by with grim looks on their faces. They run on. But I’ll stop anyone that is curious enough and show them the pure wonder that lies above the path. I’ve seen those people invite others to see the owlets, who in turn show more. My neighbors are doing the same. And now there are often dozens of people beneath the great eucalyptus tree. Spreading a bit of fuzzy grace.
It turns out that hope, like fear, is contagious.
I don’t know what the future holds for us. What I do know is that we’ll look back at this moment and understand that it was a turning point, from what was before to what will be in the future. May we plant seeds now for the future we wish to see, cultivating courage to acknowledge fear but not live in it. May we be truth-tellers and hope-spreaders that value community, curiosity, humility and love.
I’ll be with you on the journey, our faces turned upward toward the possible.
PS – a group of owls is called a parliament, and a group of rhinos is a crash.