01.26.23 owl in daylight

On Sunday, October 30, 2022, the day before I received my unexpected diagnosis of a life-threatening heart valve defect, I was driving my son to a class, around 10:15 a.m. Passing under an electrical line, I noticed a large bird motionlessly perched on the wire. I assumed it was a hawk.

“Is that an owl?” asked my son. Immediately, I recognized he was correct. The bird appeared to look at us.

As a child I was raised in semi-rural Ohio in dairy farm country at the time. My house butted up against a small field planted with soybeans or field corn, beyond which was woods, with even further back a railroad track. Behind my house was a small yet dangeroulsy steep ravine with twisted oaks, maples and ash trees home to all manner of Ohio fauna.

I grew up familiar with hawks, owls, woodpeckers, ill-tempered red-winged blackbirds and bright, bright red cardinals. I knew birds well, having created numerous bird identification projects for state fairs, school projects and the local 4-H Conservation club to which I belonged. I still own my Golden Field Guide to Birds of North America, one of the few surviving keepsakes from my youth. I knew what an owl was.

Maybe twice or at most three times I had seen an owl flying at night, but had never spotted an owl in daylight.

Later at around 4:30 p.m., feeling unusually fatigued, I laid down. I heard the distinctive hooting of an owl, presumably the same one from earlier in the day, outside my window. I was the only one who heard it, but the sound was distinct, not vague and potentially imagined.

While the dual owl encounters stood out as strange, they didn’t take on the feel of an omen or sign until the next day, following my diagnosis. At that point, they felt symbolic.

While some people fall on the extremes of either fully not believing or absolutely, 100% believing in the mystical, most drop somewhere between. My teenage son who first noticed the owl, for example, is nearly all the way on the slider toward skeptical, reserving only the smallest iota of room to acknowledge the possibility of the mystical. I’m more open to the possibility but lean toward the likelihood of a logical explanation. Where I differ, however, is I don’t necessarily see a conflict between a logical explanation and a mystical occurence. I believe the possibilty if the two co-existing.

While I knew owls played an important role in not only many Native American but other cultural symbologies, I didn’t know the interpretations. Due to the emotional weight of learning of my condition and then agreeing to undergo a major surgery, more than a week passed after seeing and hearing the owl before I mustered the nerve to research the symbology.

The encounter of an owl in daylight is generally seen as a powerful portent, one of an impending life change or enlightenment of major significance. Certainly, I underwent, and continue to, undergo that. During a difficult recovery in the ICU, I definitely thought about that owl.

I make no conclusions for the reader. What happened is simply what happened. Perhaps the owl had simply been disturbed from its resting place in an old barn or tree. Perhaps the owl was a sign. Maybe both were true. For me, the owl took on meaning regardless of the potential for a logical explanation.






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