I have had a small reverence for owls for a large part of my life. I remember during summer months on walks that extended into dusk, my parents would bid me listen to the rolling hoot of an unseen owl and we’d wait, eyes glittering, for the far-off reply.
From these experiences, I grew to relish the sound of owls and held encounters with them in the highest regard. As I write, I have in my mind one specific event that occurred with my old camera and my brother while out on an evening adventure.
My brother and I would empty our school bags and set off for the patch of woods sitting alongside a dry ditch bed. We’d wander along the bottom with its mysterious racoon tracks and ferret away crinkly snake skins entwined with bits of grass. The yellow orange glow of sunset would fall gently on our smiles and as the coal blue of dusk crept through the evening we would begin to tread softly.
In our young minds we heeded well the warning that nature’s more sinister creatures came out in the night. Thus, in this state of wonderful, perpetual fear we explored. Our eyes saw dancing shadows and each rustled blade of grass as a horrid monster ready to eat our bite sized existence.
Fearful though we were, we wandered on and farther exploring the boundaries of our backyard worlds. The night got progressively darker and we hushed. Awaiting the sound of our quarry.
The past had at once presented us with racoons and frogs and skittering mice but until this day we had yet to truly see an owl. As the light continued to fade into the horizon, we received our first sign of life.
Hoo Hoo-oo-ooo Hoo
The haunting sound of it sent my hairs on end and yet I longed for the glowing eyes to swivel upon me.
We had heard the hoot and knew now the owl was close at hand but we had yet to see it. I whispered to my companion, he whispered back, and our necks craned up and swiveled in search of the sound’s origin.
Then, we saw it in flight.
The bird had flown from a rooftop near our location and floated up to the very point of the tallest tree in the grove. We stared in awe at the perfectly silhouetted shape of a Great Horned Owl and the reverent nature of the moment bid me to take pause.
I unleashed my camera a moment after and moved slowly and deliberately to crouch down and take a photo of the owl’s shape.
Not long ago I stumbled across this photo and immediately remembered the night it was captured and the feelings it inspired.
It’s interesting for me to think that 7 years ago, I still went on adventures with camera in hand and only today do I sit to recollect the fairytale magic of that night. I guess it goes to show that my love and life have remained consistent through the wear of growing-up.
We all have beginnings. One of my starts began with the wise old owl.