Wednesday, March 12, 2008

One world

My habit of staying up late keeps me in touch with the neighborhood owls. I hear the great-horneds calling often, from the cemetary across the street or the black locust tree in our back yard, a favored perch, perhaps, because it's the largest overlooking the farm fields and baseball green that borders our property. I'd imagine there to be lots of critters that fall within earshot of any owl perched in that tree. The screech owl, like this little one here, visits only occasionally and I've never been able to pinpont exactly where the whinny call originates from. Screech owls are tiny and delicate and disappear into the darkness much easier than the great-horneds whose silhouette is hard to mistake, even in the pitch black.

Of the great-horned owl Mary Oliver writes: "I know this bird. If it could, it would eat the whole world. In the night, when the owl is less than exquisitely swift and perfect, the scream of the rabbit is terrible. But the scream of the owl, which is not of pain and hopelessness and the fear of being plucked out of the world, but of the sheer rollicking glory of the death-bringer, is more terrible still. When I hear it resounding through the woods... I know I am standing at the very edge of the mystery, in which terror is naturally and abundantly part of life, part even of the most becalmed, intelligent, sunny life... The world where the owl is endlessly hungry and endlessly on the hunt is the world in which I live too. There is only one world."

I had an experience at work today that made me feel guilty for my happy and peaceful life and for delighting in simple things. Most days in the field visiting clients are that way, to some extent but, my God, some people j
ust have so much awfulness heaped upon them. I walk in and out of their lives and their homes, have them fill out a bunch of silly papers, and then go back to my life of plenty. Yet, I'm collecting their stories in some part of me, so many sad stories that I can almost begin to imagine the same terrible circumstances on the periphery of my own life, just waiting for the chance to descend like an owl in the darkness. The recognition of that possibility, acknowledging the unmistakable shape in the pitch dark or the ability to see the little hunter hidden among the pine boughs... I'm not sure what that means. I wonder if it serves any purpose in my life or if it makes me any better at the work I do with clients. Maybe I'm just thinking too much or paying too much attention to stories and screams in the dark.

Owl pics are education birds from the
Avian Wildlife Center who gave a children's program tonight at our monthly Audubon meeting.


Anonymous said...

One of the biggest risks of service jobs is that exposure to such misery can erode away our joy in life. Thankfully, we have owls and bluebirds and the like to remind us that there are still moments of joy as well. Thinking of you.

MojoMan said...

The poor souls in this world that have misfortune heaped upon them are at least lucky enough to have kind souls like you who do what they can to make life better for all of us.

I often think of the old sayings: "There but for the grace of God go I." and "Man plans, God laughs." The owl could swoop on silent wings down on anyone .

Mary said...

Laura, your job must be saddening some days. Don't you wish your clients owls and birds and labradore pups? Sometimes we take the simplicity of our lives for granted, I know...

Jayne said...

Wow. I know what you mean Laura. All of us are subject to the Screech Owls in the night. I see lives turned on their axis in a moment's time as well. We should all really choose to live in each golden moment. Beautifully heartfelt post.

dguzman said...

That quote from Mary Oliver was beautiful yet chilling. What a haunting post.

LauraHinNJ said...

Liza: Yeah... some days I really need the reminder. What do others do, you think?

Mojoman: Exactly. I wonder how I've ended up so lucky sometimes.

Mary: Yes.. some days are awful. Awful just to hear about - can't imagine living their lives.

Jayne: Yep, but how to do that every day?

Delia: That's just a snippet of a much longer essay. I love Mary Oliver sometimes... especially on the moodier of days.

Cathy said...

You are beautiful.

What a poignant, extraordinary alignment of that Mary Oliver narrative with your experience of the tenuousness of the lives of the people you try to help.

Honestly, Laura. At 61 - I do know how lucky - that's the only word 'lucky' I've been. I'm mindful of that terrifying, beautiful owl.

And no, dear, you're not thinking too much. Anyway - you know you can't be otherwise.

(Do you really live across the street from a cemetery? You, know - that's a poet's dream location :0)

LauraHinNJ said...

Cathy: (laugh) A dream location? Across from a cemetary, really?

Mostly I get jokes from friends that have relatives buried there, asking how Mom is doing or Uncle Jack. You know.


And you're right, I can't be otherwise. Sometimes though, I have to try really hard not to fall into a sobbing mess at my utter lack of being able to really do anything for people.

Aunt "B's" Backyard said...

Hi Laura, I linked you through Journey Through Grace and came across your owl. WOW, I am envious of you!! It is beautiful. I watch constantly for them and live in the woods and just have no luck, any clues?? Great site, I hope you don't mind if I add your link to my blog.