Owling

I can’t do it.

No matter how I try to get through it, my breath catches, my voice cracks, my eyes well up. I pause, taking a silent inhale to collect my bearings. Clearing my throat I continue – bereft of composure until the whole darn thing is over.

I am reading Owl Moon by Jane Yolen to my class.

Being the cohort that they are, most of them are blissfully unaware of my stifled trauma, but there’s a chance the more attentive notice. Thankfully, they just wonder and wait until their teacher pulls her act together. At that age, you don’t question too much – adults are kind of weirdly random as a rule, anyway.

My original Owl Moon has my maiden name written inside the cover; it must be at least 30 years old. I don’t remember how I first came upon the story, but it was long before it became a mentor text for our second grade reading curriculum. I imagine that it was the illustration on the front cover that drew me in, and I was surely smitten with the turn of every page. By the end of the first read, I was probably a soggy mess.

It was published in 1987, just one year after leaving my Grade 1/2 position at a three-room schoolhouse in rural Vermont for a teaching job elsewhere.

Everything about that story resonates, echoing that time. The winter farmland scenery, the blanketed quiteness, the reverance for nature, and of course – owling.

One cold starlit night, a native Vermonter – a good friend of mine – took me owling.

We didn’t see an owl, but we heard one.

He and a Barred Owl conversed back and forth for quite some time.

Who who who whoooooo – Who who who whoooooaaaahhhh….. He called into the blackness.

(Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?)

The call of a Barred Owl weaved its way through the dark forest back to us.

Who who who whooooo – Who who who whooooooaaaahhhh……

He called again, and again it answered.

Who who who whooooo – Who who who whooooooaaaahhhh……

Magical, mezmerizing, magnificent.

As I said, we never saw the owl, but we didn’t need to.

To be in conversation with an owl talking about…

“…supper,

or about the woods

or about the moon

or the cold,”

was a moment in time, and a perfect memory.

I was there for that one owl, that one night, and I am there in that scene again, every time I read Owl Moon.

It takes my breath away.

And as humbling as it is, I don’t ever want it to change.

One thought on “Owling

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s