78: The White Owl

78: The White Owl

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

The White Owl

Lovely are the curves of the white owl sweeping
Wavy in the dusk lit by one large star.

~George Meredith, “Love in the Valley”

It was a steamy, hot morning during the August monsoon season in Tucson, Arizona and I was in my bathing suit, headed to the pool. At 6:45 a.m. there was no one else outside. I arrived, peeled off my towel and dove into the pool. What a relief it was to swim in the desert summer. Being from Maine, here in Tucson on a sabbatical leave for one year, the searing desert heat never felt familiar or comfortable to me.

When I surfaced, I sensed that I was being watched—but as I scanned the pool deck and bathhouse, I saw no one in sight. I began to swim my laps, but I still felt like I was being watched. I kept looking but I didn’t see anyone.

About forty-five minutes later, I completed my laps and stood up in the shallow end, stretching and scrutinizing my surroundings. It appeared that I was alone . . . but I really didn’t feel alone. I shrugged off the concern and decided to relax, floating on my back. Within thirty seconds I was startled by a whoosh above my body. Still floating on my back, I opened my eyes and saw a little white Pygmy owl hovering over my head!

“Now where did you come from?” I asked out loud. The tiny owl couldn’t have been more than seven or eight inches tall, and it hovered patiently, seeming to have no fear of me or my voice. “What do you want?” I asked. The owl’s penetrating gaze was the only answer. I felt like it was trying to convey a message of some kind. What could this owl want?

“Well,” I thought, “now I know why I felt that I was being watched.” The tiny owl, now perched in a nearby saguaro cactus at the edge of the pool, was still looking at me intently. Thinking that this was odd, I continued my morning exercise routine, said goodbye to the owl and headed over to the University of Arizona campus.

The next two mornings the owl returned to visit me at the pool. It continued its penetrating gaze and watchfulness. Every time I glanced at it, the owl was watching me.

I know when something unusual happens three times I need to pay attention. I wondered if this had something to do with the owl being known as a spiritual messenger. Recently I had been “putting in a request” to the universe. I had been divorced a decade already and I had finished raising my two children. Now that they were both off to college, I wanted to end my ten-year relationship drought. I was very serious about wanting to meet someone special, and had made a list of the seven characteristics I wanted in a new partner. One of the items on my list was that he have an affinity for spiritual experiences! Was this tiny little white owl a messenger?

Ten months went by and I did not meet anyone special but I continued to pray for a miracle. The little owl gave me a spark of hope.

In January I received a phone call from a church camp in Maine, asking me to teach for a week in July. I agreed and looked forward to the experience with great anticipation. In March, I had a dream in which I heard a voice say, “You will meet someone at the camp.” I trusted that dream, so on my fourth day at the camp, when a man walked into the kitchen to get himself a cup of coffee, I trembled all over. I heard the words: “That is him.”

Ken joined me at the big table in the dining room where I was working on my computer. It turned out he was there as a volunteer to do some work on the chapel foundation. After introducing himself and finishing his coffee, he asked if I would like to go for a walk down to the ocean shore, just a few hundred feet away.

“Sure!” I replied, and jumped to my feet.

Walking down the hill beside him, trying to think of how to start an interesting conversation, I thought of the little white Pygmy owl back in Tucson and asked if he knew anything about birds. He replied that he had studied birds quite a bit.

My story about the little white Pygmy owl at the pool in Tucson tumbled out of my mouth. Ken became very quiet. We had arrived at the gravel beach and I looked at his face and felt really uncomfortable. He looked pale. I asked him if he was all right and he told me his own white owl story.

“About three days before my maternal grandmother, who raised me, passed away, she called and wanted my father and me to come and sit with her. She was one-quarter Micmac Indian, so when she explained that she was ready to go Home soon, we knew that meant that she was close to death. She said, ‘I am going Home soon, but I will return and give you a sign that I am okay. I will return as a white owl and you will know it is me.’

“Two days later she died, and a few days later was her funeral. My father, who was 6’8” and close to 400 pounds, and I were still in our suits (we were pallbearers) on that hot August day. It was over 90 degrees and we were hot. After the funeral, Dad and I walked out into one of our 5,000-acre farm fields to sit on a log, where we kept coconut shells to drink water from a spring that poured out of the hill. We sat and drank the cool water in silence. Suddenly there was a silence so powerful that the hair stood up all over our bodies. Looking up, we saw a huge white snowy owl flying silently toward us, landing on a nearby tree branch where its yellow eyes looked first at me, then at Dad. It sat in silence for a few minutes, never breaking its gaze. Then it gently lifted off and flew away.

“ ‘Did you see that?’ I asked my father. ‘Yep,’ he replied softly. ‘She came back to let us know. I wonder how she did that, since snowy owls are never here in the summer. They live way up north in the Arctic at this time of year.’ ”

Three days later Ken and I knew that his grandmother had brought us together, even though we were 3,000 miles apart just a short time before. Honoring Ken’s paternal grandmother, his Native American heritage and my own Maliseet ancestry through my great-great grandmother was a wonderful way to begin our life together. We have now been married almost twenty years.

~Laura Lee Perkins

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