Monday, June 14, 2010

At Round Pond


make your little appearance now

owl dark bird bird of gloom

messenger reminder

of death

that can't be stopped

argued with leashed put out

like a red fire but

burns as it will


I have not seen you now for

too long a time don't

hide away but come flowing and clacking

the slap of your wings

your death's head oh rise

out of the thick and shaggy pines when you

look down with your

golden eyes how everything


then settles

from mere incidence into

the lush of meaning.

My father-in-law, Jerry, is visiting us now these weeks of late spring. He brought his binoculars and his presence in the moment, for he has lost most of his short term memory ability because of Alzheimer's. He won't remember what birds he has seen, but that hasn't stopped us from looking. He asked what were the "good birds" to see and I told him of the Barred Owl who comes to our clothesline every year to hunt, and of the Swallow-tailed Kites, one who just flew over our yard a few days back. The Owl though has not returned and I wonder if he has died, for surely he would not forget us or the great hunting in our mostly uncut lawn.

Yesterday I took Jerry to our congregation that has a Sunday morning bird walk. I asked our most impressive bird leader, Caleb Gordon, if the Barred Owl had been seen lately on the grounds and he said, not so much. But that didn't keep us from looking. Towards the end of the walk the owl came in silently to the oak trees above us. The owl looked down on us and I wondered what meaning there is in the gaze the owl exchanged with us if the memory is to be immediately erased as in the case of Alzheimer's or in the case of too busy schedules that move from one incident to the next. Maybe we can't hold onto memories, but that doesn't mean that we don't look for meaning and interconnection in our days and offer what we experience to those who accompany us on our walk through life. So every day I tell Jerry about the owl, and the Swallow-tailed Kite he saw later that same day, show him pictures of them, and we find satisfaction in these moments of interconnection with one another. So maybe my owl won't come back this year and Jerry won't remember him even if he did, but for this moment, I can hold onto the grace of having family with us, now, if not always into the future. Owl of life, owl of death, our whole lives.

What do owls mean to you?

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