How do You Talk With Owls #5


I have the keys to their enclosures. The raptors. I open them, one at a time, and do service for owls and hawks and eagles and falcons. I rake and clean and water while they, wild talon shod birds, study my every move. As I work, I can’t help but ask: how do you talk to Owls?

#5 Flustered

We’re supposed to check the birds, make sure they seem okay. I’m not a specialist, but I can usually count to one or two or three birds. And all of them seem to have a favorite hang out. Snow is always on the ground diametrically opposite from the door through which I enter. Great Grey has a square post where he stares down on me, and a corner he flies to, making silent treks from one to the other when he’s a little disturbed. One of the Peregrines is always on the floor and will jump up to the rock to be fed, right next to the front where people can watch. A natural performer. And the screech owls are practically like live gargoyles as they occupy fixed location in nap mode.

But one day, I can’t find the second screech.  I climb on the stool to be able to search into higher places, nooks and crannies, the little nesting box, craning my neck to get at different angles. The enclosure isn’t very big and I circle around without success, re-visiting the same places to look again.

As I search for it, I find it hard to believe that it is in the cage with me. It has entirely disappeared. Yes, I am panicked a little. Well, maybe not quite that serious: but I’m confounded and disturbed. I actually consider calling for help on the walkie-talkie I don’t know how to use.

Once, when all the birds were receiving their semi-annual check ups, I had the privilege of seeing one of the screech owls held in the palm of someone’s hand. When it’s perched on a limb, it’s the size of a kitten. Not exactly large, but it’s a substantially round puffy cutie. However, in hand, its feathers gathered, it shrinks to the size of a small rat or a bat. It is almost non-existent it is so small.

I know in the wild I could probably never see a screech, not even with a lot of determination, but I pride myself on having some observational skills. I once counted nine hawks in nine separate instances while driving all day along a boring highway. Which isn’t entirely interesting in itself except that a friend of mine, who that same day travelled the same stretch of highway, also counted nine hawks. I thought cool! My hunter gatherer skills are not entirely dead. Also, I take it as a good sign when I see a bird of prey in the wild  – like in Homer’s literature, the eagle descending is a thick omen. They – those seer guys who were professional interpreters –  used to be able to give pretty specific instructions about the meaning of the omen.  I know that nine has magical abilities:  have you ever noticed that every integer of every multiple of nine adds up to nine? That’s math magic.

So: what does it mean that there were nine hawks? I have no idea. I want to call on Homer’s dude, but there aren’t many of those prophet types around. I think:  Screech owl absence isn’t an omen; it’s an oversight. It’s an anomaly. It’s a test.


I decide I will not call for back-up. I can handle this. And reason convinces me that it has to be in the cage.  I stand in the middle of the enclosure for a few seconds to gather my thoughts. A friend of mine calls on St Christopher when she loses something and it often works. I don’t do that, but the effect of pausing calms me.

And then I start looking again, this time not for the owl, but for the places I haven’t looked. It’s not exactly as if it comes out of hiding, but I suddenly see where it could be. And when I look, there it is: in a place that I could not have imagined possible. Hiding and completely camouflaged in a crack between its favorite post and the enclosure frame, a slit that would barely allow my fingers to reach in. It is squished with its wings spread wide, like it is embracing the post. Its little head is hidden in the flurry of feathers. I wonder if it is trapped. I worry that maybe it has fallen down into a trap.

I say a few soft words to it and it turns to look at me. Just a little movement and I back away. When I check on it again, it’s back up on its post. Sound asleep. Unflustered.

4 responses to “How do You Talk With Owls #5

  1. what does it mean that there were nine hawks? – Nine is a Goddess Number – See ” In all her Names By Joseph Campbell” By what coincidence of nature, however, can the numerology of the Paleolithic and Neolithic lunar reckoning of 3+3+3, as of the visible body of the universal Great Goddess, have been carried on, only amplified, in the Old Sumerian numerological reading of 4+3+2, to accord with an actual “Great,” or “Platonic” Zodiacal cycle of 25,920 solar years, where 2+5+9+2+0 = 18, and 1+8= 9, whose root, as Dante saw, is a trinity?

    • Thanks Sheheda! I appreciate your take on this. I suppose there’s also the role of Hawks to think about and also my life, and what I was doing at the time. Interpretation is multi-dimensional. To me, at the time, it was kind of magical. And now it has goddess love in it. SO that’s fine. Take care.

  2. I love the way you write. When I read it I am with you and see the birds and feel your frustration and relief when the bird is found. Once I missed the cutoff from RT. 89 to 93 and wound up on 91 some years back. It took a while for me to realize I was on the wrong highway and didn’t know how to get to 93 from there Then I saw 3 crows on the
    left side of the road at a cutoff. I took it as a sign, turned there and it took me right over to rt 93!
    Looking forward to seeing you at Northfield.
    Peace, Nancy

    • Good story Nancy! Thanks for sharing the wonderful way we can interpret signs, but more importantly the rich diversity of lives being lived.

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