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…


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

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