Well, 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.