I could tell by Fate’s bark that something was in the yard that wasn’t supposed to be.
First I looked out my studio window towards the barn. I thought it might be the gray cat that looked into my studio window last week his big green eyes, looking directly into mine.
I walked away from the window when he did, not knowing what else to do. Later I saw him go into the barn and haven’t seen him since, though I also haven’t stopped thinking of him.
But it wasn’t a cat I saw out my window today.
It was a small gray owl. Her back was to me but her shape, even from behind, was indisputable.
I was stunned and awed.
I took a picture expecting her to fly away any moment. But even as Fate continued to bark and I opened my studio door and climbed over the frozen gate, she didn’t move.
Even though there was no outward sign of injury, when I squatted down beside her and she didn’t even turn her head, I knew for sure that she was hurt.
But I got a bit hopeful when I picked her up and her claws wrapped around my fingers.
I was in my early twenties when I worked in an Animal Hospital and learned that it’s a good sign when a sick bird can perch.
But once she was standing on my hand I didn’t know what to do.
I thought that maybe she had flown into something and she was just stunned. Her one eye was mostly closed, but the other opened wide as I held her and she even turned her head a bit and stretched out a wing.
I was hoping she would just fly away.
When she didn’t I called Jon and we decided it was best to bring her in the house. Jon put Zinnia and Bud in their crates and I brought her into the bathroom, a small space where we could close the door in case she did try to fly.
Jon was immediately on the phone to our Vet who gave him the number of a Wildlife Rescue Group.
He texted them a photo of the owl and we were told to put her in a crate or box with something soft under her and keep it warm and dark. The woman on the phone told us she was an Eastern Screech Owl.
A little while later we were on our way to Trish’s house in Saratoga Springs. Trish is a Wildlife Rehabilitator, with North Country Wild Care and the best hope for the little owl.
But when we got to Trish’s and I looked in the box in the back seat, the owl was already dead.
Trish said she was probably hit by a car and had internal injuries.
I’ve tried to save a lot of wild animals in my life, and I know that most of them die. I even stopped taking them home after a while, just letting nature take her course. So I can’t say I was surprised that the owl had died, but I was surprised at how sad it made me.
It was magical to look out my studio window and see an owl sitting on the ground.
And the way her claws gripped my fingers made me feel as if we were connected in a very intimate way. It was like a dream to have her sit calmly on my hand. Of course, she was injured otherwise she wouldn’t have stayed there, but it still felt like she trusted me, like I was bringing her some comfort or at least a feeling of safety.
Driving home from Saratoga, Jon suggested we become Wildlife Rehabilitators.
Trish told us it was a matter of taking some classes and a test. Then we could be the people that rescued injured wildlife and knew how to care for them.
When we got home Fate and Zinnia came with me and I took the owl out into the woods.
I placed her body under the big old Shagbark Hickory. Even though the owl was no longer in danger and she would most likely become food for someone else, I felt like the tree would watch over her.
When I got back to the house, I left a message with the person who trains rehabilitators for North Country Wild Care.
I was actually surprised Jon wanted to become a rehabilitator.
But he too was unusually moved and saddened by our experience with the owl. Traditionally owls are known as messengers and this is just what Jon saw in this owl.
“I think the owl came here to die”, Jon said, “that she or he was a messenger”.
I believe Jon is right. Because the idea of us being Wildlife Rehabilitators feels right to me. Like sinking into an unfulfilled part of myself. And sharing the experience and responsibility with Jon will be another way of opening ourselves up to the natural world around us.
Another way of inviting nature into our lives and becoming one with it.