Story Time

Story Time


The Owl

Running through the doorway as excited as the dog, he barks at me, “I found an owl!” Now, maybe he just means the owl we saw drinking water off the patio the other day, maybe it had come back. I look out the window to see if our striped friend is sitting out front, but alas, I see nothing. The ink black night offers nothing visual. He stamps his foot like a little kid, and demands I get ready to brave the weather with him and the dog.

Bundling up is paramount this time of year, with temperatures as low as eleven degrees at the coldest part of the night. I pull on my down parka and shove my feet begrudgingly into my boots. While I do love dead things, as any good witch does, I also love staying toasty on the sofa by the fire, especially at nearly midnight.

An excuse to hit a cigarette, I whisper to my grumbling self. Quitting had proved harder than I had bragged it would be, showing my addiction to the world. I pat my pocket to check for a lighter, and give my lover the nod. “I’m ready”.

The snow was iced over now, hard and crunchy and loud. My breath already looking like smoke in the frozen air, I reach for my pack and pause. Was this land cursed? Was the orchard holding darkness like in fairytales? I laugh to myself and he turns to me, tsktsking me for the nicotine habit. “What’s so funny?” 

“My superstitions” I say to him, his eyes gleaming in the moonlight. He is beautiful, and the night light only makes him more so. My owl spirit, my guardian, my partner. We live in the country, deep in the high desert mountains, and his love of the hills helps me feel the earth beneath me. 

“Take me to this owl” I tell him. I follow behind him and the dog, some steps away. Watching their shadows in the white glow of a full moon on a snowy night, I feel the owl energy coursing like water. I think I know where it will be, and my eyes are drawn to the base of the oldest tree on our acreage. The black poplar is huge, like five trees in one. 

With the bare branches reaching to the stars like skeletal fingers, this tree has most likely cradled dozens of owl families over the decades it has spent growing, deep within its gnarled trunks. I have stood at its base and marveled at its greatness more than a few times. Nothing like a grand daddy tree like this to make a girl feel small.

Stopping just ten feet shy of the tree, both my man and the dog freeze. Even their foggy plumes of breath stop, dog and human both holding the air in their lungs. I catch up, stabbing the forgotten cigarette out at my feet. A gentle voice calls out, no words to speak, just a song sung by a spirit. Not so much a hoot, but more like a hello. The sound makes all of us shiver in our bones, I hear the dog’s tags jingle as she trembles. 

My partner looks at me, his eyes the only bright spot in the moons shadow, I can see the white sparkle of his smile as he whispers, “Magick, isn’t it?!”. It is magick indeed, I think to myself. Afraid to make a sound and startle our new friend into flight, I shake my head vigorously. 

The owl is sitting like a tiny god, its legs tucked under it, wings folded neatly at its sides. It cocks its head sideways, first one direction, then the other. A ruffle of its feathers, like a little wiggle of joy. The feathers are striped, dark and light alternating. I exhale, and it looks at me. I feel seen, I feel known. We are connected, all four of us, the moonlight binding our existence. 

We stand there for I don't know how long, the moon seeming to be the only thing moving. Creeping across the deep black sky, time is as frozen as the snow beneath us. 

Suddenly the owl spreads its wings, holding them out as if to pull us into an embrace. Leaning forward, I strain to hear it speak again. “who, who, who comes for us all?”

A decent question, the owl has asked us. I mumble softly, “I wonder the same thing”, and without the slightest visible effort, the owl lifts itself into the air, frost twinkling to the ground as it rises alongside the ancient tree. 

Who comes for us all? I don't know. Does the owl know? Or does it seek the same answers we do? 

Taking my lovers hand, we crunch our way back to the house, ice breaking with every step. The dog is calm, as though it's own questions were answered as well. Standing at the doorway of our home, we pause, a tender kiss shared gently, like a thank you.

The owls call rings out again, the night air amplifying its depth. Will anyone come for any of us?

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