the dream is what you
see with your eyes open
And this is what happened this afternoon: I was taking the long, aluminum roof rake built to twenty feet up on the snowshoe path to clear off the faraway cottage roof when I stopped a moment to clean off the deep outhouse roof. The snow wasn't budging off there either.
Done with that I strung the rake pole back onto my shoulder and started up the trail again...when something big flew across my path. I'd been there before. I knew what it was before saying the word in my head. I knew the shadow on the snow, knew the body of flight, more like an intelligence flying, not all predator like hawk.
Here was the barred owl.
I lifted my eyes and it landed twenty feet from me on the lowest branch of a fine sugar maple tree. Turned his head and held a steady gaze onto me. I returned the favor. We stood that way for five minutes, which is a long time. Long pole on my shoulder lightly swaying up and down with its loopy weight. Not bothering anybody. Not bothering barred owl. He's fascinated with me, I'm fascinated with him.
We haven't seen one another this close for over twenty-five years. Why are we this close? Then it dawns on me. It's Janine.
Her first big book of poems was titled The Bard Owl. The last time I saw barred owl I wrote a poem to her and it's in my book of poems Where Rivers Meet. It flew right in front of me before like it just did today. Same meeting. Yes, the same bird of birds. Her.
She's been gone from us for six weeks.
But what really made me know it was her was how she stayed put and waited for Sweetheart to come out of the house, latch to her snowshoes, drudge the trail to come be with me. Janine knew she might. She did. Owl waited, steadily, no hint of flight at all.
Until Sweetheart came from behind me and asked, "What is it?" I said, "Look at the maple." Whisper: "Yes?" "The lowest branch." Whisper: "What?" "See the owl?" Hesitation..."Oh, yes..!" She was blending in perfectly with the maple bark, just as she knew she did. Janine came for her visit. I inched closer on snowshoes and she didn't move, watched, waited. I inched more, making the slightest cluck sounds with my mouth that cats also like. But it got to be she saw us and we saw her and it was time to pass on. Pass she did. The bard owl.
"The Barred Owl", 1976
enamel owl earring box sent from J to S
Janine Pommy Vega
for Janine's birthday 5 February 1942