I realized this weekend, I have truly become fascinated by the snowy owls. We went owl-hunting again yesterday afternoon but the sky was drizzly and grey, and we weren’t at all successful. So instead we ran a few errands, and on the way home, I saw just one as she flew down to catch her food in what looked like one great plop. Unfortunately she was on the other side of four lanes of traffic, and even if we turned around there was no place to pull over. I felt sorry for them as we drove along–all the freezing rain has iced over the fields and it must be harder for them to swoop down to their unsuspecting prey. I found myself worrying that they wouldn’t have food here anymore and would need to move on–that’s what brought so many to us in the first place. That concern is also likely why they were on my mind this morning. There is no doubt I’ll miss them.
This morning as I watched the sun come up in a glorious display of pinks and purples and blues, I realized I should be going owl-hunting in the early morning hours. The contrast in the photo could be amazing. Then of course, I told God how I thought it would be very nice if he could just relocate an owl—any owl–to the trees in my back yard because that would make a nice picture too. I have some friends in Calgary who posted links to the family of owls they had in a park this spring. I was jealous. I have a friend in Nashville who has an owl living in her back yard but I haven’t seen it yet. I want one, that’s all there is to it.
But the truth is, we may have already had one in the yard. Maybe we just weren’t paying attention. More likely, I wasn’t sure what to pay attention to. With the snowy owls, my husband had to find a half-dozen before I could spot even one. Now I’ve seen the last three before he did. I told him we have to go out again because I still have some catching up to do.
My dearest friends know how much enjoyment I get out of watching and listening to birds. By no means am I an expert. I just happen to think there are lessons to be learned from them, and it’s a way God has of making me pay attention. For example, watching the owls has reminded me of the need to survey a situation before diving in. And when you decide to go for it, well don’t hold back. Go for it with everything you’ve got.
Yesterday as we left our driveway, I made my husband stop the car so I could get out and look at a 3-inch nest in the barberry bush. For the entire summer and fall, how is it I never noticed the birds flying in and out of there? The mama picked quite a place to build it too, for the entire bush is one gigantic bundle of thorns. It’s right outside our front window, and we have to pass by it every time we leave the house. I look at it whenever I pick up the mail. I see it every day, but I just wasn’t paying attention.
In both cases, the challenges of winter have revealed something unique and beautiful, and have reminded me that I’m missing important things because I’m letting myself be distracted. The timing of these reminders couldn’t be more perfect. Today, many people I care about are facing their own harsh and cruel winter seasons. It’s a day when I need to pay attention.
I think of my friend who may be in surgery at this very moment, and all the hope that is attached to that surgery being a success. I think of a kind older woman recovering from a serious stroke, and the grace lessons she’s teaching her children. I know someone who may be struggling with consequences to her own choices, but even so the season is painful and brutal. And there is a stranger I must write to today, even though I know I’m going to be bringing up what likely was the worst day of her life.
Just like the bird’s nest, in each case all the extra stuff has been cleared away in winter’s wind, revealing the very core of what’s important. All I can do is pray earnestly for them, that they will experience peace and beauty in spite of (or because of) the barren landscape surrounding them.
If this isn’t a winter season for you, or if you are so inclined, won’t you pray for them too? God knows their names and their circumstances–and most importantly knows what flying lessons he has in store for them as they prepare for spring.