Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Heard the Owl Call My Name

I went out for a ski today.  Winter is losing its death grip, but there is still plenty of snow for skiing.  I was all alone climbing high up the Blacktail Deer Plateau.

Electric Peak in the distance
The sky was bright blue and I felt so close I could reach out and touch it.  At some point, always too soon, I had to turn my skis towards home.  It's always hard to leave the mountains and return to life and home.  I am reminded of Wordsworth's Ode--Intimations  of Immortality.  He wrote, "Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own."  Earth's pleasure's are so different than those of my small home.  I stood and watched another's skier's tracks disappear around the bend.  Today, I chose to follow my own back.  Softly I quoted the wise hobbit Bilbo Baggins, "It's dangerous business...going out your door.  You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

As I turned, a large grey bird silently dropped from a tree and dove head first into the snow.  After a moment on the ground it stretched its wings and returned to a nearby fir.  I knew the instant it left the tree that I was watching an owl hunt.  I skied to where it had dove into the snow and marveled at the feather tips marked in the soft snow.

Again the owl swooped from tree to meadow and then returned to the very top of a tree.  I came closer and we examined each other.  I saw its rounded face and knew I this was a Great Grey Owl, also called the Great Grey Ghost or the Phantom  of the north.
I had the rare opportunity to watch the largest (though not heaviest) of the owls in the world hunting for mice and voles under the snow.  Owls have ears that are not even with each other.  This enables them to pinpoint an animal's location under up to two feet of snow.  They are large birds, with an average wingspan of 4.5 feet.  Their wingtips are softened so that they can fly silently.  Indeed, the first time I ever saw an owl I was sleeping outside and what I remember most was how every small creature grew quiet when the own slid noiselessly by.  He or she watched me scooping its head to get a better look.  I stood and marveled at this rare moment.  Time slid by as silently as the owl's flight.  It began ignoring me completely, gradually moving from tree to tree.
The sun dipped below the rim of the hill and my fingers began to tingle from the cold.  Reluctantly, I left it to hunt and glided across the glorious expanse of the plateau in the fading light.

Sources: J.R.R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings

1 comment:

Jacque said...

LIvin' the dream, baby!