Part 2: Aggressive owl clouts runner on the head

Great grey owl, photographer Chris DoddsWell, after my magical experience on Wednesday night, I was quite looking forward to my run Thursday night, hoping to see the great grey owls again. On the way down the trail, I didn’t see them, but I thought it was still too early. It wasn’t quite dusk yet. On the way back, sure enough, as I neared the same spot where I had seen the owls Wednesday night, suddenly an owl flew over my head, landing on a branch nearby.

I stopped, and bowed to the owl, thanking it for coming to visit me again. I opened my awareness to pure consciousness, wanting to sense the field of the owl and listen for anything it might be wanting to tell me. After a few moments, I heard a sound behind me. I turned to look, and the second owl was there, on a branch about the height of my head, only about six feet away. What a gift, to have the owls trust me and come so close!

When I turned back to look at the first owl, it was gone, but suddenly it swooped over my head again. I remembered stories about great grey owls that I’ve heard from friends recently, and recalled that they can be aggressive, even knocking peoples’ hats off their head. It occurred to me that maybe the owl was telling me to hit the road, that I was too close to the nest or something. I said this to the owls, that I would continue on my way, and turned to continue running up the path. Next thing I knew, one of the owls had struck me very forcefully on the top of my head. Ouch! What a shock! It was a forceful blow, quite amazing considering these owls only weigh about four pounds.

Okay, okay, I get the message, I’m leaving! I thought. I continued to run up the path, and one of the owls swooped very close to my head again, though it didn’t strike me this time. It continued swooping in loops alongside me a few more times, until I came to the same bend in the road as the previous night. There the two owls perched, and watched as I left their territory. I paused to say goodbye, voicing the fact that I didn’t much like being struck that way, but still appreciated their presence.

As I continued up the next bit of trail, the full impact of what had happened sunk in. I began to cry as I ran. My head hurt, but what hurt more was my heart. I had been so open to the presence of the birds, feeling like it was a gift. I thought I was special, and that the encounter was proof that I have some kind of special connection with nature. I have longed for closeness with wild creatures, and the night before it had seemed this was what was happening. And also it had seemed a clear answer to a question I was holding. In previous times, when people were closer to the land, the land and her creatures were ensouled with meaning, and such encounters had significance. I had sought this significance myself, but in feeling physically hurt, it seemed all of this was wiped away. I was just a fool on a run, blundering through an owl’s territory, unwelcome. All of this wounded my pride, my identity, shook up my view of reality.

Suddenly I had more sympathy for people who feel frightened of nature. Perhaps this is what was most upsetting about the encounter (and also the gift, to understand how others feel). I have always felt nature is a friendly place, or at worst neutral. But it’s a place I have felt safe, and have trusted. This encounter shook that trust. I don’t know yet the full impact on me. To be continued…

Photo Credit: Image Copyright Christopher Dodds, used with kind permission. All Rights Reserved. See other examples of Chris’s beautiful work at Chris Dodds Photo

Part 1: I heard the owl call the chefs’ names

Something quite wonderful happened on my run in the Seymour Forest on WednesdayGreat grey owl night that I must tell you about. I did a 90-minute run along the Seymour River, where I always finish by coming up a steep 1 KM trail called the Homestead Trail. There is a bend in the trail near the top, right before the steepest section, with a creek bed that is usually dry but very green and filled with ferns. The trees are very old here, some of them huge, and the clear forest floor is red from the accumulation of dry pine needles. It is a beautiful spot on the run. As I was coming up to this spot I was thinking about the idea of Joe and Wahl doing the cooking at the ChiRunning and Yoga Retreat next year, turning it over in my mind.

Suddenly, as I neared the bend, a great grey owl flew over my head! It wasn’t totally silent, otherwise I wouldn’t have heard it… It came to rest on a branch overhead, and I stopped to say hello and thank it for its presence. It was dusk, so I couldn’t see details clearly, but the owl seemed to be grey, rounded head (no visible ear tufts like the great horned owl), with lighter feathers at the bottom of the tail. The owl looked at me for a long time, and after a while it made a sound like FFFFFsh. and then I heard another sound behind me. I looked, but couldn’t see what had made the sound. Then I realized there was a second great grey owl behind me!

I hung out with them both for about 10 minutes. They flew around a bit, coming closer to me to get a better look! Silent, puffy flight, but noise hopping from a branch to a lower branch, and once or twice noise opening their wings. One time I looked at one and the other one flew away without me hearing a thing. But they seemed interested in me, flew to nearer branches, both looked at me. They also both flew at each other and dislocated the roosting one from a branch. It was such a wonderful gift!

For reasons which I can’t reveal here, it was obvious that nature was providing a very clear answer to the question about the chefs. Joe and Wahl absolutely must come and do the cooking next time! Grey owl said so! 🙂 And I was thrilled both to have this magical encounter, and to have what I thought was a very clear answer to a question, for a change! To be continued…

Photo © LaClocheGallery.com. Used with permission.

Is yoga and ChiRunning the answer?

Last weekend, Angela James and I, along with two musicians and eight Donald guarding Chi Runnersparticipants, had a fantastic time at the ChiRunning and yoga retreat at Monkey Valley. It was the most beautiful time of year, with flowers of dozens of varieties in bloom, the grass waist-high, and visiting birds of many colours flitting through the willows by the creek. We had delicious meals, moments of quiet contemplation during the morning meditations, exciting discoveries about ChiRunning, relaxation and enjoyment during the yoga, and incredible fun around the campfire with the sing-along, guitar music, cello numbers, and smores! We went for a swim in Missezula Lake, and some of us ran back to Monkey Valley from there. It felt like a real blessing to me to see the posse of runners up ahead, running along the logging road. As if my heart’s desire had been answered by sharing this magical place with other runners.

Last entry, I was musing about how I am being called to serve my people. Last summer (or maybe the summer before) my friend John Harper had asked me the astonishing question Camp fire“What if the universe doesn’t want you to do anything?” The heart of this question, it seems to me, is considering the possibility that I don’t have to crawl a hundred miles on hands and knees, but can just let the soft animal of my body love what it loves (to paraphrase Mary Oliver). That is, maybe there is nothing in particular I need to do. Just be. Maybe I don’t need to stop the oil eruption, or change the way Canadians feel about banking, forever (my current client’s dream), or lead people on intensive vision quests in the wilderness. Maybe I can just be an ordinary person, and see what unfolds.

The yoga and ChiRunning retreat unfolded with absolute ease from the moment I took Angela’s workshop in January. Certainly there was some hard work involved along the way, especially in cooking for 12 people, but there was a flow and element of surprise and delight throughout, such as when my friend Darch offered to come a day early and help out. It seems to me that this type of flow and ease is what I long for, and what seems like true guidance Meal time in the log cabinabout direction. I continue to hold the question as my summer unfolds, with another trip to Monkey Valley coming up and then the annual Diamond Approach summer retreat at Asilomar later in August. Maybe my desire to serve in some big, special way is just an ego trip, and all I need to be is an ordinary person, special just because I am, just like you are special just because you are.

Top photo: Joe Charron. Middle and bottom photos: Lorinda Wei.