Saturday, March 2, 2013

Life Beyond our Eyes (Republished with Revisions)

What I wouldn't give to see this incredible night visitor on an evening stroll through my woods. I hear them, and know they're there. But I have never come face to face with a great horned owl. Recently, an animal trainer came walking through those woods with me. We looked over the great pond that dips beyond the large rock in the back of yard. We scanned the old craggy trees, the half snapped pines, leftovers the recent series of storms. It was daylight, a typical gray day; the landscape was bleached with a coating of fresh snow. Colors were few; the hillside was pretty stark. But, to my imagination, the sights and sounds of the many creatures that populate the woods existed nonetheless. Faith is believing without seeing.

"I'll bet you have more than a few owls around here," he said. Woods, water, and open fields. Of course there were owls. How could there not be?

Today is the second day of March. My mind is filled with possibilities, the greening of spring to come. I smell it at times in a waft of air that comes through in the evenings when I walk my rather huge puppy around the yard. I hear it in the trees in the mornings as birds skitter to and fro and call to one another, more and more arriving each day. The light of a new dawn, reds and yellows, rays of great hope reach far into the morning sky. Faith is believing without seeing, I tell myself. Change...transformation is afoot. And yet, I struggle this year, and of course I know why. The rhythm of life has changed. I'm not sure what's hit me, and where in this year I am.

Two weeks ago, I had the great honor of enjoying the company of a group of third graders that I'd really only met once before. I'd planned a simple lesson in listening and writing, one with great possibilities, I thought. And then my good friend, the teacher I was stepping in for, handed me another plan. I'd told her not to feel compelled to write plans, I was happy to develop my own. But...she held in her hand Jane Yolen's wonderful, Owl Moon, which was and is an old favorite of mine. I love to entertain serendipity when it steps into my teaching life, so I grabbed it and moved with the kids to a cozy spot in the room.

"We have special blankets, you know," one pretty charming brown-eyed student said. Well, of course, I did know. Our students in Newtown have been gifted beyond belief!

"You'll definitely need them," I said. "This is a story that is perfect for snuggling."I was surprised when they came back and pushed into the blankets in twos and threes, I thought they'd each have one. This was so much better, I thought. I loved seeing them tucked into each other, their eyes eager and ready to read.

And so it began, a reading, like so many others, so many times before. My career has the wingspan of an owl, the years, but perhaps not the wisdom. I never tire of the books I read, each time I treat myself to that first-time reader experience, the love that each book and every story deserves.

I read this one as breathlessly as I could, treading lightly through the pages, setting a tone, so that we could walk through these woods with this father and daughter combination as if our skin had slipped inside theirs. You could've heard a pin drop.

"You know, Mrs. Lynch...someone did see a great horned owl the night it happened," a young boy said.

"It," chorused a few. They were immersed in the story, and didn't get it right away. But then, in seconds, they did. And of course, nothing else needed to be said.

It. Yes, we know. It. 

The room grew even more quiet.

"What do you think about that," he asked.

Me. He asked me. And he really wanted to know. that serendipitous moment, I didn't think twice. I looked at him confidently. I knew then, and I know now what I believe. I was not about to shirk my responsibility here. I didn't go all preachy, and I didn't try to analyze them.

"Well, I think that Nature gives us wonderful signs, if we watch and listen and stay tuned in. I think that incredible owl sighting may have been a sign that everybody, all of them and all of us, are going to be okay."

Kids want simple answers and they're looking for hope. I don't want to promote false hope, but I do want to give them some of what they need. Simple, short and from the heart. That's it.

Since that day, I've had time to pause and wonder about my response. I've done all kinds of reading about the phenomenon of which I spoke. On the cold October day when my sweet sister was buried, the most beautiful yellow butterfly landed and lingered on her coffin. Every one of us saw it, and our eyes lingered there. To this day, we talk about that butterfly. Yellow was my sister's favorite color, it was our symbol of hope. I never researched any of that. I just chose to believe.

This owl...and the bluebirds that people have also been telling me about, are our symbols of hope. Our opportunity to look to the future with a generous spirit. The bluebirds are the symbol of transition and spiritual awakening, a craving for innocence, or so its told. The owl, we've often heard, was the symbol of wisdom. But recently, I've discovered so much more. In the Indian totem they represent a spirit that can "pierce beyond the veil that separates the physical world from the spirit world. They filter out light from the darkness. They remind us that both, light and dark, can exist at the same time."  

And then, there it was, again. On a cold, cold night in the middle of winter, just months after our world felt like it'd come to an end, the sound of an old owl pierced the darkness. And then another, a different owl answered the call. It filled me with that spirit of all that is and can be made right again. To me, nature itself gives us signs of the total vibrancy of life, the hope that can shine forth as we all move from the horrible IT to the wonderful US and THEM together, light and dark, living alongside one another, the physical world and the spirit world never separate, but together all along. Faith is believing, but not seeing.

We love all those that were left behind, separately, differently...the ones we knew, and the ones we never had a chance to know. Our lives now, are entwined in ways no one could've dreamed or expected. But we do live on, many of us in the knowing that what we see here and now is only a minuscule part of all that there is!


Lillian Bittman said...

Gael, Thank you for this -- one of my favorite books combined with things I believe to my core, written by someone very special to our family. Gifts are among us, and you are one of them.

Janet M said...

Gael, this is beautiful. I loved learning more about the owl; so fitting. I believe in signs and I so needed to read this story on this morning that I was feeling low. thank you.

gael lynch said...

Lillian and Janet, thank you both for your kind words! The story, I believe, is not mine, but was given to me from the Universe to share. Writing has always helped me through all the times of my life. And it's always in times of particular vulnerability, when my heart is really unfiltered and open, that those stories find their way in!