The Owl That Flew Away
By: Brad Cole

I was waking up to the call of an owl merging into my delicately dreaming world. Crawling out of a large cot and climbing down a ladder from the loft to the main floor of the dry cabin, I stepped outside to pee and then to find the obscure bird. I was greeted by the exquisite softness of sunrise creeping into the shadowy forest. Again, I heard the whoot of an owl, a Great Horned Owl by its distinctive sound. Stepping over pools of melted snow I spotted it high among the trees in back of the small cabin. A dark silhouette with a four-foot wingspan leaped into the magic of early morning light and disappeared behind an arctic forest of spruce and birch.

Owls call out mostly in the spring, when they are looking for a mate. Otherwise, they are fairly silent. I thought about how solitary and still they usually are, living in such a secretive wooded world. Perhaps they can sense and understand subtle elements of the forest that we are unable to detect. They are highly evolved creatures that have not been led astray by a dark and foul use of language, as have humans; there are no highflying falsehoods in the forest.

Turning around, I recognized the striking sound of cranes calling repeatedly from distant gray clouds; they bring with them the feeling of nature being made and remade. Each season evokes the crazy contradictions of earthly life in the ephemeral forest: plants born from dead matter, day rising out of night, running water slowly shaping hard stones, animals kill so they can live. But from the ground up the wilderness is like a grand cathedral, I thought. Its spacious beauty of spirit easily transcends the dark drama of a world of conflicting forces riding on desperate winds. As always storm clouds gradually fade and disappear into a reigning sapphire sky. Though grounded in a tumultuous but hallowed earth, the steeple shaped spruce trees point upward where they are lodged in spirit with the sacred harmony of distant stars.

Watching the lifting sun, I thought about the stillness and silence of the ancient forest. Perhaps these are the qualities we need to identify with to find our own inner landscapes, so we can take refuge in nature and allow it to save us from desperation. Our bodies came from water that came from rain that came from sky that came from space. We have grown out of a problematic planetary environment and seek to return to the purity of a celestial kingdom that lies waiting within. In our own conflicting and wayward ways we all want a piece of Heaven.

Before returning to the cabin I took a quick look at the grassy stream I bath beside during the warmer months. It was no longer trapped in ice but flowing with dark red curling currents that reflected a bluish light. Like a prayer these fresh waters have the strength in purity to wash away the soiled and dusty darkness of human degradation. Looking back at the past winter, it was a rough one and seeing myself there in the forest with the coming spring, only the hollow stem of a man was left. That I strongly felt, while remembering a large whooting owl that flew away, disappearing into the early morning light.