Friday, November 9, 2012

What a Hoot! Running and Music and Owls . . .

Photo taken from this Wikipedia page

Last week I was blessed by not just one, but two, encounters with barred owls. The first happened on a dark, rainy Wednesday morning after I had coaxed myself to leave my tea and blog visits to pound around the island in my running gear. While I've got myself to the point that running 60-90 minutes on weekday mornings, 2 hours or more on a Saturday, all without complaining, I'm not such a keener generally that I'll run  before sunrise. As I began running, though, and realized how mild it was underneath all the wet, I chuckled to realize that I was actually enjoying myself.

And it seemed even more chuckle-worthy, somehow, that despite having run seven half-marathons and numerous 10K races, despite logging at least 100 kilometres a month all this year, despite having got my weekly average distance up, the last few weeks, almost to 40 kilometres, what makes me really start to feel like a hard-core committed runner is that I'm willing to run before dawn. I'm not saying this phenomenon will be repeated anytime soon, but I was very impressed with myself -- and really amused at how impressed I was -- as I wound my way around our dirt-road perimeter and headed towards the park.

Coming up behind another islander, fully suited up in West Coast Goretex -- rainpants, hooded jacket, Helly Hansen boots -- I called ahead to let him know I was coming around on his left, so that I wouldn't startle him. Between the iPod earbuds he had plugged in, though, and the amplified raindrops that must have been reverberating under that hood, I surprised him anyway. We exchanged greetings as I moved ahead onto the narrowing path that led toward the park. And about two hundred feet ahead, I sensed, then saw, a swoop, a blur, a flight to my left and then past me, a tawny-grey movement full of power, sure, deliberate. The swoop landed on an electrical pole nearby and resolved itself into a barred owl, halting my run abruptly.

We stopped and surveyed each other for a minute or two, my fellow islander catching up and joining us. The sky had lightened enough by this point that we could admire the hunter's markings and be rather chastened by his inscrutability. And feel blessed. At least, that was my state as I cranked the machinery back up to get myself on the run again. If you've ever had a minute or two with an owl, less than thirty feet between you, you know what I mean.

Photo taken from this Wikimedia Commons page

And if that were not beneficence enough, last Friday night, just two days after my fortunate run, we were at a fabulous house concert in West Vancouver, 50 or 60 guests crowded happily around a string quartet, listening to Bartok, Debussy, and Shostakovich while a torrential rain thundered into the surrounding dark green of the night outside. During the program break, chatting and mingling, someone came in from the kitchen with a glass of wine, joined us to say a few words, and then excused herself because she was going out to the deck to see the owl. The owl?! Yes, apparently other guests had spotted one sitting on a balcony railing, so we joined the in-the-know folks and headed to the back of the house.

And there she was, another owl, this time perhaps even closer than at my earlier sighting, 15 or 20 feet away, completely undeterred by the gawkers that we were. Perhaps tolerating us was simply the price to be paid in order to listen to this curious noise, this music. What would those strings have sounded like to an owl's ears? Would the vibrations be felt outside? Certainly, I found it quite wonderful to sit close enough to the musicians that I could feel the vibrations through my chair, the wooden floor under my feet, even as I could hear the astonishing harmonies and energetic rhythms and shapely melodies. What would an owl make of all this?

Of course, once I commented that this was the second Barred Owl I'd seen in a week, others suspected that I was the draw rather than the music. A colleague to whom I recounted my good fortune even blurted out that First Nations people associate the owl with impending death. I'm clinging to my own conviction, though, that the sightings are a blessing, an augury of good things. I know that they were beautiful and awe-inspiring, and remembering them both, I'm grateful.

How about you? Any close encounters with an Owl?

20 comments:

  1. No - I've never seen a real owl. But I did have an encounter with a 200 pound raccoon at my garbage can 2 days ago. Seriously, it was more like a bear than a raccoon. The animals here are very fat this fall. I wonder if that means a cold winter. And I think it's hilarious that I live in one of the most densely urban areas in the world, likely, and I'm talking about the adipose tissue layers of animals and what it means. I feel so "farmer".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! when they get tubby from raiding one's cat food or garbage, urbanites pay attention to the mammals. Do you get skunks at all? They wander the streets of Vancouver near our West End apartment. I make sure I'm on the opposite side of the street, especially if there are dogs around to trigger the olfactory wonders . . .

      Delete
    2. Yes! But generally not in our 'hood. They seem to hang out more south of us near Queen Street. There's a park where they live!

      Delete
  2. I love owls and we see a few at this time of year. There was one on the news last evening, a snowy owl at the courthouse, beautiful creatures.
    Lucky you to see one so close up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to get out to Reifel Refuge (Delta) when the snowy owls are there -- magnificent!

      Delete
  3. I've not seen any owls recently. We mostly get crows and the occasional possum, neither of which are much interested in close encounters. One of the most amazing wildlife encounters I've had was probably about 4 years ago now. It was one of the last times I went horseback riding with my Dad before he fell ill. It was a mid-winter day and as we trotted along the trail, I looked to my right and a pair of bobcats was sitting not 10 feet away, just calmly watching us pass by.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What an experience, Sue! Did the horses not spook?

      Delete
  4. We have a healthy population of barred owls on our island but they are heard much more often than seen. Over the past couple of years I've had a few close encounters, only one when running. I was on a trail and came almost face to face with the owl. It was on a branch only about 10 feet up. It just looked at me, quite unperturbed. Their eyes are so black. I believe they are one of the few owl species with black eyes. It was an incredibly moving experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It feels quite profound, almost literally, as if their eyes are plumbing your depths, no?

      Delete
  5. I've glimpsed a few owls, but the experiences were nothing like yours. What mystery. What marvels. Lucky you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's funny -- when I keep an eye out for them, especially after hearing their calls, I don't spot them, but the sightings that I've had were right in my unexpecting path.

      Delete
  6. My husband and I walk every morning at 5:30 am. We had an owl experience about a week ago, as he flew above to roost on a nearby streetlight. So quiet, I would not have known he was there except for his shadow against the light. Magnificent.

    Roadrunners and hawks are more common sightings in our corner of the Southwestern US. Owls, a rarity. They are shy creatures.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can picture the moment you're describing -- wonderful!
      I'd love to see a roadrunner, if only to check against the cartoon likeness.

      Delete
  7. We have super cute burrowing owls by the Bay here.

    Owls do feel like harbingers from another world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They really do, and they appear so very knowing.
      I'd love to see a burrowing owl -- we have them in the BC Interior, but I've never had the luck.

      Delete
  8. Oh, I love owls. We hear barred owls all the time, very close, in the trees right on our property. It's one of the greatest joys of living here -- their calls keep me company at night. The only time I ever saw one was late at night, in the rain, after I pulled into the drive. He was captured in my headlights, about 50 yards away. I would like to see them more often, as I feel they are my neighbors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hearing them regularly, right on your property -- how wonderful!

      Delete
  9. We hear little owls up here and brown owls from higher up the valley. We had a little owl in our yew tree for a few nights last year right by the kitchen door but it moved on without explanation. Even then I heard them far more than I saw them so envy you your close up view!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love owls, but I have only seen them up close a few times. Once last year I thought I might be able to snap a photo of a big and beautiful one that I encountered while I was out for a run, but I wasn't fast enough in getting my phone out of my pocket.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love their expressions. We have Owls here, and I sometimes hear them, but I don't see them. I thought I did once, but it was fleeting. I couldn't be sure.

    ReplyDelete

I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...