The sun had cast shimmering gold flakes of light onto the sands at Plum Island in Newburyport, MA. It was difficult to not stray from the boardwalk and plop down on the soft piles of warmth. My husband and I had skipped household chores to drive to the refuge for a walk. It was nearly 50 degrees and we were basking in a snow-less, mild winter. As we strolled on the boardwalk, buoyant and expectant, we came to a silent assembly of birdwatchers, swathed in outdoor gear and carrying impressive telescopes, spotting scopes, binoculars, and tripods. We stopped to watch, too, pulling out our pair of cheap binoculars and our good digital camera. Someone made room for us and whispered, “It’s a snowy white!”
I was in a silent sanctuary of worshipers who had come to view a holy sighting. The scent of the briny, vigorous sea breeze became the incense carrying unspoken prayers to the heavens, and the candles were represented by the dancing points of golden sunlight surrounding the snowy white owl. There was a sacred hush amongst us, and I wondered if this was how people felt when they went to see apparitions of the Virgin Mary at the Medjugorje shrine in Southern Bosnia.
I have seen the barred owl in the middle of the day, flying over my car. I have heard the barred owl outside my window and we have called to one another back and forth, the owl coming closer. Me, shutting the window quickly, fearing too much intimacy. Once, driving down the road at midnight while in a heated argument with a friend, a barred owl stood in the center of the road. I had to brake hard and she spread her wings. I got the message. But this was my first snowy white owl sighting. It wasn’t as close as my barred owl sightings, but it didn’t need to be. Through my scratched, inferior binoculars I saw enough of this snowy white female to make my head spin 270 degrees as her head does. When she put out her five foot-wide wing, it was only half-way, but it was enough. I felt it cover my heart and dissolve my doubts. I left church that day renewed, invigorated, and the vision of this snowy white mother was vivid in my memory for weeks. She is still with me.
It is an unprecedented year for snowy white owl visits to the United States, especially as far south as Texas. Scientists say it could be due to the harsh winter in Canada or because the snowy white owl food supply is limited, i.e. lemmings are on the decrease. Photographers who have searched for snowy whites for years are ecstatic and stunning photographs are everywhere on the web. The evening news reporting graphic stories of violence and tragedy are inserting cheerful vignettes of snowy white owl sightings. Grown men are nearly weeping and crying out, “You don’t find owls. They find you!” Warnings are being sent out to protect the snowy whites from too much human contact and intrusion.
Owls represent wisdom, mystery, death, and intuition. A snowy white owl hunts during the day and seeing one during the day could indicate you need to bring forth something in the light of day that you have hidden. Ted Andrews writes in Animal Magick, “Owl people have a unique ability to see into the darkness of others’ souls and life.”
Perhaps a visitation by so many snowy whites to the United States can have further meaning than a harsh winter and low food supply. Death to old, linear, starchy, restrictive, greedy, and oxygen-less ways in our lives and in our government. Why not all of us seek to be owl people and embrace wisdom and intuition? Maybe we are being visited by our Creator through Mother Snowy White Owl.
I believe there are certain places on this earth, the anima loci, that hold special energies and sacredness where the veil between the earth and the beyond is very thin. I went home that day after seeing the snowy white owl with my insides re-adjusted and re-aligned. Good thing, too, because that evening I had a very disappointing phone call. After the call, I wondered at my resilience and my peace, but then I knew. Mother Snowy White Owl had prepared me.
There are better videos online than mine, but I thought you might capture the spirit of this blog by viewing the time captured:
And one of my favorite poets writes about an owl:
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings — five feet apart —
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow —
and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows —
so I thought:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us —
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light — scalding, aortal light —
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.