This morning before first light, I was greeted by the hoo-hooing of a pair of owls outside our window. I had gone to sleep reading Jung's "Memories, Dreams & Reflections", and his thoughts on death, alchemy and eternity. Perhaps these ideas are more prevalent with the ending of another year, and the mystery of what is beginning. This poem from Rumi came to mind:
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don't open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer.
Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
Inside our warm house (below freezing outside) the insistent voice in my mind repeated: don't open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer. That last phrase undoubtedly meant: Go out and find the owls!
For so long I have wanted to see an owl close up, in the wild. I sat outside in the dark in my pajamas and waited. When the first hints of light began appearing behind the hill to the east, I could just make out the silhouette of one owl perched at the top of an elm tree. I went inside to get my binoculars, hoping I wouldn't scare him off. Lo and behold I got a good look at him, big ears and all. When dawn came, I saw them both fly east. To have them so close by, chanting their song, has changed my morning and left me feeling blessed by some presence of the night.
Many cultures see owls as a bad omen, or herald of death. But if it was death they were foretelling, their non-stop hooing conversation made it a joyful one!
In many cultures, including the Maori of New Zealand, this bird of the night is also a guardian associated with night vision, magical powers, second sight and the spirit world.
In the western European tradition the owl as a symbol of wisdom goes back to the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, Athena. She is often pictured with an owl:
New Year's Eve– death, rebirth, and a new dawn. Some observations on this subject are beautifully stated in this excerpt from Mary Oliver's poem, White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all, but so much light wrapping itself around us — as soft as feathers — that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes, not without amazement, and let ourselves be carried, as through the translucence of mica, to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow, that is nothing but light — scalding, aortal light — in which we are washed and washed out of our bones.