I have been having so many owl synchronicities the past two months that I decided to repost this essay from 2002. Originally published in The Spiral Journey, it won an Animal Communication Writing contest when I could barely write more than 20 minutes per day and when I had never even heard of Animal Communication!
On my most recent trip to visit my parents, my mom alerted me that she had heard “my” owl hooting on a very significant date for me. Owl Wisdom emphasizes a change in cycle, clairaudience, communication between realms, stealth, reincarnation and shapeshifting. These things certainly make a lot more sense to me now than they did in 1998 when I first encountered this lovely visitor!
Anyway, I hope you enjoy my trip down memory lane. Maybe some day I’ll write a sequel. For those interested in learning more about owls and their extraordinary passion and intelligence, my mom recommends the book, “Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl.” I’ve only read snippets, but it seems like a nice bridge between science and heart. In fact, my mom loves the book so much that she asked me to paint her a picture of Wesley the Owl before I left. The little canvas is already hanging on her wall. 🙂
The Backyard Owl
by Laura (Derbenwick) Bruno
In May of 1998, I suffered a traumatic brain injury, the effects of which forced me to spend the summer recovering at my parents’ home in Pennsylvania . The nausea, confusion, and perpetual migraine headaches left me unable to do much but sleep for 16 hours a day, listen to Chopin, and eat whatever food my queasy stomach could handle.
I passed my first few weeks there in an alternately excruciating and euphoric haze, but by mid-June, I had developed an afternoon routine. With Chopin lulling my brainwaves into submission, I would boil water and heat two scones in the toaster oven. Struggling to walk with a cup of tea in one hand and the scones in the other, I would then sink into the back porch chaise—exhausted once again. I was often too tired to feel my boredom, but occasionally it surfaced in anguishing waves of isolation. My parents worked during the day, so when I awoke at 1p.m. I had no companionship, and I could not focus my attention enough to read or meditate. In fact, almost any stimulation sent me reeling into vertigo, but the lack of conversation or distraction sometimes felt unbearably lonely.
Somewhere in the course of those afternoons on the back porch, I noticed what looked to me like an owl sitting on a branch at the back of my parents’ property. Day after day it would return, and when the thought finally occurred to me that owls do not usually show themselves in daylight, I considered that I might be hallucinating. With intermittently double vision and all those painkillers, it certainly seemed possible. Still, I came to enjoy my afternoons with this owl, who so reliably settled himself on the same branch—always within a few minutes of my thud into the chaise. He was the perfect companion. Quiet, knowing, keen of sight. I never spoke to him, nor he to me, yet we developed an understanding between us; I could feel his presence, even with my eyes closed. Although the crows harassed him mercilessly, he sat with me for as long as I remained outside.
One Saturday, my mother decided to lounge on the back porch as well. I stretched out and began to anticipate the owl’s company, when my mom suddenly hissed in excitement: “Laura, that looks like an owl! Back there, in the trees. I have to go get my binoculars.” She ran into the house and came out with them around her neck: “Oh my Go– It is. A great horned owl! But what’s it doing outside at 3:00 in June?” As she gazed through her binoculars, I nonchalantly explained to her, “He’s my friend. He sits with me every day when I come out here.” “What!?” My mom was now surprised and envious. A longtime collector of owls, she had joined the Audubon Society in hopes of seeing more of them in the wild. “Laura, why didn’t you tell me?” I answered her truthfully, “Because I wasn’t sure if he was real.”
Eventually, I recovered enough to return to my own apartment, and my mother never saw the owl again. Curiously, she did hear the owl on certain nights, but only when I happened to be visiting their home again. Over the years, it has become a joke between us that when I arrive, “my” owl welcomes me. On a visit home last winter, I had a strange dream of two dark, catlike figures that were not cats. They danced an elaborate S-pattern and then melted into one another. I had no idea what the dream might symbolize, and yet it seemed important—like in dreaming it, I had participated in a ritual of wholeness.
At breakfast, I described the dream to my mom, and she did not know what to make of it either. She went upstairs to fold laundry and abruptly yelled for me to come up there. She stood looking outside the window at some disturbances on the previous night’s snowfall. “Laura, I think we need to go outside and check this out.” We bundled up and trudged through the snow to the markings she had noticed from above. Two sets of tracks in S-like patterns appeared as if out of nowhere. Judging by the direction of the toes, two large birds had dropped from the sky and undulated towards one another on the ground. After coming together, they once again took flight.
Of course, I cannot say with certainty that it was my old companion, but great horned owls do begin their courtship in late January. I like to think our bond remains. A true friendship: no matter how long the separation, we share key moments in our lives.