A few years ago, the Casa had an unwelcome vistor for a few days; a huge barn owl, easily 2′ tall, set up shop in a tree not twenty yards from our back porch. You could sometimes just make out his dim shape against the night sky, sometimes you couldn’t see him at all, but you just knew he was there.
I could only imagine what an owl of that size could do to a little crackhead of a dog like Marco, nothing but a micro canine hoederve, er, horesdeovaries, forget it, I’ll just say a snack.
Even if you’ve never heard the sound an owl makes when it swoops in for the kill, you now know exactly one sounds like, because they make no sound at all. Even their feathers are feathered so that the air rushing across their wings is muted. There’s something incredibly scary about seeing something so beautiful but deadly silently swoop through the night air like a haint that can cause actual harm, not just causing fear that causes someone to harm themselves.
There are lots of owls out there. We are dimly aware of some of them, like the acknowledged risks of riding a motorcycle. If you’re smart, you take the training, wear the appropriate gear, don’t ride at night when the deer and drunks are moving. Then when you’ve addressed the factors that you can control, you have to let the fear go and twist the throttle. I didn’t start riding until I was in my forties, based on the fear instilled in me by a family who feared motorcycles; any decision based solely on fear is always the wrong decision.
Or the owl could be something as intangible as Covid, the silent owl that swept down and took my buddy Marty. We all knew it was out there and took the necessary precautions, but still it struck.
But we all have owls that are totally unexpected; my daughter’s attacker. My wife’s cancer. My own encounter with a unfriendly pine stump that left me with a ruptured colon and sepsis. Ecclesiastes 9:11 “chance happens to all men”; the rest is up to how we deal with it.
But back to the owl in the back yard. The dogs still had to go outside to pee, and so did I for that matter; it’s a guy thing that my wife will never truly appreciate. Just because we saw the owl for the first time that particular night, he may have been perched up there for years, monitoring our every move through his huge golden eyes. Then again, he may not have been within a hundred miles, and any fear and angst expended on his behalf would have been a soul-sucking waste of time.
Like many things in life, there is no clear-cut right or wrong; all we can do is the best we can do, then forge fearlessly forward as if that was the only course of action. Although there may be unseen owls in the night sky above your head, they’re not necessarily YOUR owls, and not everything is out to “get you”. Expect the best, prepare for the worst, and roll with it from there.
And when my time comes, as it inevitably will in one form or another, I would hope that my last moments aren’t clouded by fear; fear of ridicule, fear of embarrassment, fear of “what if”, fear of “I didn’t do enough”, or the greatest fear that all humans share, the fear of not having made a difference. The owl that seems to do the most damage is always fear.
We be of one blood, ye and I.