I was having one of those days, feeling a little down and very rushed and overwhelmed. As Puma and I were midway through our usual stroll around the neighborhood, I became aware of a small group of teenage boys. They were clustered together by the path that meanders through Whale Tail Park, armed with cameras and cell phones, taking pictures upward into the branches of a cedar tree. I might have thought nothing of it if I had not overhead the word “owl.”
Responding to my enthusiasm, the teenagers were kind enough to take the time to carefully guide my eyes to where a gorgeous barred owl was trying to take his daytime nap.
Deliberately choosing to upend my schedule, Puma and I hurried back to retrieve my camera. While I have heard Western screech owls in my neighborhood from time to time, I have never seen a wild owl on our walks. Here was my first opportunity to photograph one!
Upon returning, I put Puma on down-stay and angled for the best shot I could find. It was not easy, besides the limitations of my neck injury there were numerous branches in the way, and the lighting was quite dim. I only managed to get off a few shots before the owl swiveled his head around so that it was now facing backwards.
For a while shots of the back of his head were all I could obtain, so I waited patiently until finally he resumed a face-forward position. Eyes tightly closed, he attempted to ignore the crowd of amateur paparazzi who passed beneath his tree bedroom. I was encouraged by how many people excitedly ran off to tell others. It was truly inspiring to see the wonder and awe he was greeted with and the care that everyone took to speak as quietly as possible so as to not disturb him. Having acute hearing I am sure he could hear us all quite well if he wished, but hoped that he was able to angle the feathers around his ear holes so that he had the owl equivalent of cotton balls muffling our noise.
Just when I was wishing that I could get a shot that did not include so many branches, all of which seemed to block some part of his handsome face, one man called me over to stand about 20 feet back up a slight incline where I discovered I could see the owl in all his magnificence. Score one for the kindness of strangers, as well as the maxim that sometimes you are too close to see the forest for the trees. In my focused desire to get as close as possible I had neglected a cardinal rule of photography, to explore other angles and options. Point taken for the larger life picture as well as future photo ops.
In photography mode, I had gradually migrated to a spot fairly far away from Puma who had patiently stayed in down position while the world had passed him by, including people with dogs (bless you Cesar Millan!). Finally his protective genes clicked in, he decided I was too far away to take care of properly, and that I had obviously forgotten the importance of that. Getting up, he walked over to where I was before assuming the down position once again. Not picture perfect obedience, but I could not argue with his logic.
By this time I felt I had plenty of photos of owl with his eyes closed. Occasionally he peeked by opening one eye slightly, and I hoped against hope that he might open them fully. I tried asking him, to no avail. I considered sending Reiki to the situation but wondered if that would be selfish. Before I could resolve the debate an unexpected event occurred, round the bend of the path came the local coon hound, one who could never resist greeting Puma by baying at him in ringing bugle tones, wanting to play. Puma stayed where he was, bless him, but the volume of the hound’s voice caused the owl to finally open his eyes fully, looking downward to see what all the commotion was about. Owl did not look at all worried or disturbed, just mighty curious. I got several good shots before finally thanking the owl (and patient Puma), and taking my leave.
I returned to my schedule feeling uplifted and relaxed, and realized that I needed to allow more time each day to consciously enjoy the gifts that can be found along the way, some of which come wrapped in feathers. That special day I had received a gift of Owl Medicine.
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