The thermometer on the back porch says it is 10 degrees Fahrenheit when we set out on an afternoon walk with Bella on the last day of the year 2013. Fortunately for our thin blooded coastal North Carolina living selves there is not the faintest whisper of wind and the sun is shining brightly on this frigid New Hampshire day. I share Bella’s doggie-zen enthusiasm as I breathe in the sharp cold air as we walk from the wood shed out into the white landscape.
I stop to take the above picture and Erik says
“Mom! An owl!” It has flown over my head and I only see it from behind as it glides away over the snow covered garden. It looks off white in color. Erik had been looking in the other direction and had gotten to see it’s face.
“I think it was a barn owl.”
I think of barn owl faces. Their dark eyes and white face a disconcerting mask that betrays no emotion, at least not one recognizable to humans. This was probably the one I heard last night as I was brushing my teeth for bed. I had stopped mid brush and looked out the window. There was no moon or streetlights and I was unable to make out even the silhouette of the nearby hills. My little mammal heart shivered at the thought of that owl perched somewhere watching, it’s bird heart beating in steady alien-like tolerance of the deep sub zero cold. The myths surrounding owls as harbingers of death seemed completely obvious and reasonable as I curled up under the electric blanket.
Today I just smile and marvel at the complete absence of sound it made as it flew over. A winter’s day here is so quiet anyway, there are no leaves to rustle, no outside voices besides our own. If Erik and I were mice, his warning would have come too late and owl would have got me.
Later, sitting on stools and drinking tea in my uncle’s warm kitchen, we discuss the owl sighting.
“It could have been a Snowy Owl. They’ve been coming down from Canada.”
“It was a light color, but maybe not pure white. It all happened so quick. Erik saw it’s face.”
“I think it was a barn owl.”
My uncle is a woodsman, that is he manages people’s forested properties and often works alone in the woods. He once told me he would never get a license to hunt a bear. ” Oh no. I don’t want to ruin my karma. You leave me alone, Mr Bear, and I’ll leave you alone.” His eyes twinkled.
Now he smiles, the laugh lines around his eyes crinkling up
“Well, I think seeing an owl, especially a Snowy Owl, on the last day of the year, that would have to be a very lucky sign.”
I suppose it depends on which mythology you choose.
Polish= An owl is the ghost of a married woman.
Japanese= An owl is good luck, an ancestral spirit
Native American= Symbol of death, unlucky or a spirit
Old English = Unlucky omen
Roman/greek – Symbol of wisdom
Modern day- An owl is wise
Target= An owl is very trendy and looks good on clothing, cups and kitchen appliances
Me= owl is a very unique and fascinating life form. You leave me alone Mr. Owl, and I’ll leave you alone.
But maybe you don’t get to choose the mythology. maybe the mythology chooses you.
Sonya says: Nevermind the last day, it’s the first day of the year that matters, and whatever you do on that day is indicative of how you will spend the rest of the year.
On the first day of 2014 I spent the day driving away from New Hampshire, outrunning a monster snowstorm. Dad, Erik and I stopped for the night in N.J. and we all shared a room. The next morning dad said,
“You must have been having a nightmare. You screamed in your sleep.”
“Yeah, mom. You woke us up.”
I am embarrassed and a little creeped out because I’ve been doing this a lot lately.
I can’t often remember the dreams, but this one I do.
I was back in the room at the farm, not facing the window, filled with a sense of dread. A barn owl sat outside on a Mapletree branch, staring in, compelling me to turn over, raise the shade, and look it in the eyes.