My husband and I have harbored the same wish for almost 30 years now—that owls would build a nest in our yard. We’ve heard them in the distance, as we’re falling asleep and sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, the air poignant with their deep, minor-key hooting and cooing, and yet we’ve never seen signs of a nest. Occasionally we’ve spotted one soaring across the sunsetting sky and there have been a couple of times over the years when a pair of them appeared to be circling over our yard during nesting season, only to settle in at a property across the way.
Then last year, almost overnight, a fortress-of-a-nest appeared at the top of the old growth oak just behind our garage and for a brief moment it seemed as if our owls had arrived, only to learn that the builders weren’t owls but rather a pair of peregrine falcons, known for their voracious appetites, favoring songbirds as a particular delicacy, soon to include the beloved orioles and finches that frequented our hanging feeders (which we had no choice but to resolve by leaving them empty).
So imagine my delight when about a month ago, as I was filling the tea kettle one morning, just before dawn, I glanced out the window and saw this:
A great-horned owl, perched right next to what had been last year’s falcon nest. I hightailed it over to Wikipedia to learn that, yes, owls will do this, take over the nest of another bird.
Soon to be followed by this:
Preened by their mom and fed by their dad, these owlets had earlier on taken to careening their fuzzy little necks over the side of their crib to see where their folks go when they take off. I’d catch their gaze, too, every morning as I stared back from just outside our back door, a practice that continues today.
I wish so much that I could capture the magic that these exquisite creatures lend to my life. I bolt out of bed in the morning and rush home at the end of the day with unbridled eagerness to see them. The inescapable wildness of their existence—unprotected as they are from icy snows and torrential rains, feeding on prey dropped from the talons of their elders and facing the screeching return of the peregrine that yesterday circled the two young ones who stared up with fixed gaze from the coveted shelter of that falcon’s former home, permeating the atmosphere with such palpable threat and fear, in these owlets and also in me, only to fly off without incident—all of this somehow offers extra life, something altogether vibrant and alive, something ancient and eternal breaking through the ordinariness of what had heretofore been my regular life.
Which brings me to the bacon. We were making breakfast yesterday morning and I’d put bacon in the oven, taking note that in about 19 minutes it’d be done. Rounding to the sink, I glanced out the window to see that these little ones were taking their first, tentative steps out of the nest. I grabbed my camera and dashed out the door. Assuming the position, my body a tripod of sorts, the strap pulled taut around my neck and arms extended, steady lens on this moment, I can’t honestly say that I forgot about the bacon. It was a conscious thought, a question really: Which would you rather have? Bacon? Or this?:
Without reservation, I’d sacrifice every slice of bacon I’d ever have in my life for this.
These owls will launch soon and the portal to all of this extra life will have closed once again, for the time being. When these eternal cycles of birth and growth, flight and soaring, decline and death—true for owls and all creatures, and also you and me—break through the temporal tasks of bill paying, laundry, and bacon cooking, life’s as good as it gets. Kairos erupting into chronos—I’m wishing for more of this, for myself and for you, for its nourishment and its sustenance. Can we ever get enough?
Eternity isn’t sometime later. Eternity isn’t even a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off. And if you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere.
~ Joseph Campbell / The Power of Myth