Invitation from an Owl

Last week, in the darkness just before the sun came out, I was startled awake by a loud sound outside my window. At first I didn’t know what it was and sleepily wished it away so I could go back to the comfort of my dreams. As the noise continued though, I eventually recognized the deep, soft hoots as the call of a great horned owl. I lay there for a long time listening to it's cries... hoo...h-hoo.

Unable to sleep, I started to get curious if I might be able to see it. I debated getting out of bed to try. I slid one arm out from my comfy nest and felt the icy sting of the wintery cold. Not appealing. But now the idea of seeing the owl had really grown on me and it was too strong to ignore. Everytime it called out, hoo... h-hoo, I felt it as something between an invitation and a dare. I found myself wondering, was I really the kind of person to choose comfort over the possibility of an uniquely beautiful experience? Almost as if on cue, the owl called out again. Hoo.. h-hoo. Now I couldn’t help but hear it as...”Who... who?” As if it were asking... “Who are you?”

I lay there in my cozy bed and pondered... What kind of person do I want to be? What am I willing to risk? I’d like to say that the decision was easy and I jumped at this opportunity to choose aliveness and adventure, but my bed was so warm and soft and familiar and the air was so very very cold. Again I heard the owl... who...who?

Eventually (and somewhat reluctantly), I couldn't help but give in to the call. I crawled out of bed and crossed the chilly room. Standing at the window, I shivered and watched as my breath fogged up the glass. I scanned the tree tops outside, trying to get a glimpse of my noisy winged friend. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was at just the wrong angle and if I wanted any chance at seeing him I would have to actually go outside. Ugh. Another choice point. He called again... who...who?

This time the decision was a little easier. Afterall, I had made it this far, why not keep going? I grabbed my thick fleece robe from its hook and tiptoed downstairs and out the front door. The cool stillness of the night took my breath away and forced me into even greater presence. Here, the owl’s sounds were impossibly loud. He was so close... literally right above me. So beautiful and full of longing, the calls brought tears to my eyes.

I stood there in the poetic darkness of the new moon, for some time. Oddly at peace, I felt the presence of something otherworldly and divine. I began to get the sense that the call that brought me out here wasn’t just from this exquisite bird. This whole experience was all to familiar... the resistance to giving up comfort, the chill of the unknown, the persistence of the invitation and the sweet reward that comes from taking a chance.

I have thought about this moment many times over the last several days. When the part of me that wants to hide from the world, keep things simple and just focus on all the mundane details of life, wrestles with the part of me that feels called to show up in a bigger way. When fear and doubt and discomfort creep in and I am tempted to ignore the truth that, like all of us, I am here for a reason, I remember the call... "Who...who..." And then I choose... Who I am and who I want to be. Each moment. We all have a choice.

That morning I slid back into my warm bed with a huge smile on my face. While I never actually did see the owl that woke me up that day, I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that by answering its call, I had uncovered something just as magical.

Kirsten Warner