7:30 BELLS: After the Wind, a Presence

This morning I had a resonating experience on the river trail. I was surveying our damage from the typhoon remnant that blasted the Pacific Northwest this weekend. The Nisqually River Valley funnels big winds. During the storm, I held my breath several times, hoping the trees stayed in the air. They did—except one across the river. The apocalyptic forecast didn’t materialize—here.

As I dragged fallen branches off the trail, I heard a flock of birds crying. Most of the birds had already left for the winter. I looked up. Hundreds of sparrows fluttered and flapped in a big Douglas Fir. 

And then I saw why.

An owl perched on a branch, same gray-brown as the tree. Only white spots gave it away. And the owl was looking straight down at me. 

What a face! What an enormous face. He was a winged head. I’ve heard owls hoot here at night but have never seen one. Had the storm brought him out? Or had it brought me out to meet him?

We considered each other soberly, steadily—me looking up, the owl looking down. I was being measured in ways I couldn’t fathom. Would never fathom. That quality of fixed attention —for the first time I understood why owls are associated with wisdom. I understood this not from a book, or picture, or video, but from vivid experience.

This elemental way of experience the world so often eludes us. Listen for the unusual—like the gathering of sparrows after a storm—often a signal that something is different. And then take the time to stop and look up. Maybe you’ll meet a presence you’ve never met before.