Living on the very fringe of the North Carolina Sandhills Game Land, it isn’t unusual for nightfall to deliver sounds and shadows of a different world. I especially notice it when a full moon provides a backlight above and behind the tall pines in my back yard. It can look like a storybook image in which characters are represented by shadows and the dialogue is always whispered. It may not be the kind of scene that would be appeal to everyone; but to this country girl, it is a comforting (even mesmerizing) sight. I’ve lived here for 20 years; and I still have to stop whatever I’m doing, turn out the lights and soak in the image for at least a moment or two.
Nightfall brought a visitor to my back yard yesterday: a Great Horned Owl. He (or maybe “she”) isn’t a new visitor. I’ve seen him many times before and frequently hear his “ho-ho-ho-hoo-hooo” during the night. The average lifespan of a Great Horned Owl is 5 to 15 years; but I think this particular owl is probably the “one” that I’ve seen and heard ever since I’ve lived here because his flight and resting patterns haven’t changed over the years.
He is a magnificent creature.
He flies across the cove from a vacant forested lot into my backyard and perches on the limbs of the pine closest to the edge of the lake. His flight shadow is massive. It can break the fullness of the rising moonlight with a swooping canopy of darkness. You just can’t not notice it if you’re lucky to be around when he flies into the yard.
And I could sit for hours looking at his silhouette against the moonlight.
Great Horned Owls are symbols of many myths and legends in Native American culture; my owl, however, isn’t. To me, he represents the closest tangible border of wildlife meeting my human world. I can ignore the squirrels taking run of the place, the chatter of the beavers down at the water, and the irritating yelps and barking of the coyotes at night. But the owl’s presence demands more respect; mainly because I feel like a visitor in his territory rather than he in mine.
There will never be a dialogue between me and this Great Horned Owl. Unlike the power of myth and legend, the un-relationship I have with the owl is entirely from a distance and out of respect for his nature and habitat.
A part of me knows that if I approach him, he will flee; and maybe forever.
I don’t want that.
Last night was the Beaver Full Moon phase–
another significant symbol of the Native Americans representing a time to begin the winter settling process, both outwardly and inwardly…to pay attention to the changing seasons and start preparing for shorter days and longer nights.
For the owl in the yard, the light of the Beaver Full Moon was nature’s call for good nocturnal hunting (and I hope he nabbed all those tasty squirrels!). For me, it was a call of a different nature: A call to pay more attention to the times and places where nature, humanity, and God in his Heaven have a connection to each other without saying a word.
I am more than satisfied with that kind of awesome silence. Come the next full moon, I hope the shadow of the Great Horned Owl flies again.