Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How is it, Madame Owl

25 February 2009

How is it, Madame Owl, that you swoop and soar breathlessly over our frozen world?

How is it, that you spin your head around and around, without giving yourself a stiff neck?

How is it, Madame Owl, that you sit for hours on end in one tree, never moving? You look frozen, but we know you are alive. What are you looking at for so long a time? Are you watching us through the foggy windows of our house? Do we look as odd to you as you do to us?

How is it that you decided to live in the old schoolhouse that rests a mile away from our farm? Do you know the stories from that stately shack? Can you read the carved initials on the back wall: my great-aunt and her little friends. Now they are old, or dead and gone. Their spirits no longer live in our world; no one will hear their happy voices again, not until heaven.

Do you think it is odd that the old door was hoisted up, and rests on the ceiling beams inside? Were you here when the pot-bellied stove still looked like metal, instead of a rusted curve of red iron? Did you watch when the farmers drug the teacher’s house into the slough? I know you like to sit up on its roof. Were you here when the roofline was straight? Have you ever peeked inside, in between the boards on the windows? Have you seen the table that is knocked upside down? The hinges to the door are rusted, but beautiful. I’d like to take them off and keep them. What do you like about the little house?

How long have you lived here, Madame Owl? And why do you stay? It certainly is a lonely life for you; even though I’m sure you have a cozy nest.

Do you ever talk much with the snowy white owl? He does not have your noble horns or demeaning brow. He is quizzical, and seems shy. You seem bold and honourable, as if you knew that you were special, but were not proud of it. He seems like he would make a good friend. I bet he has a charming, funny personality, but it only comes out when he is really safe to be himself. He wouldn’t impose himself on you. I think he likes to have lots of time alone too. Maybe you both need time alone before you can be with others. Sometimes, it takes a lot of energy to be with others; but sometimes, it is so wonderful to be not-alone that you just about burst with happiness when your friend is near.

How is it, Madame Owl, that your little babies grow up and leave every year? I’ve never seen them. I wonder if you have babies; but I’m sure you must. You are too nice not to have a husband; but it would be all right if you didn’t. You seem like the kind of bird that would be happy wherever you were, and whoever you were with, just because you are you, and you are glad to be you.

Madame Owl, how is it that you can keep warm sitting still for so long? What do you think about up on that branch, hour after hour?

Do you ever fall asleep up there? How do you keep from falling? And why do you like our trees to roost in?

But, I’m glad you do. I like looking out the window and seeing you there. You are so peaceful. You are warm, even though it is freezing. You are content, even though the wind is blowing and the snow is swirling. You are not bothered by the noises of our snow shovel, our boots, our voices. You seem to be talking, even though you are silent. I wonder if we seem silent to you, even though we talk all day long. I guess, what we say doesn’t matter that much to you, because you can’t understand it. You weren’t made to. But, if we hold our breath and listen, what you have to say matters; because you are telling us about the Creator.

You are doing just what you were designed to do; and you are happy to do it. You don’t think about all the things you’d like to do and can’t, or all the things you shouldn’t do and did; you just do what you were made to do. You are what you were made to be. And watching you tells us something about ourselves, our world, and our purpose in it. You tell us that life is special, a gift; and that it is meant to be lived to the full. You tell us that we can only do that if we follow the pattern of our Designer. You show us that life is painful, and there is something better.

And if we listen to the echoes, we can hear the Creator calling to us. He made the beauty of our life; He sings the song, we echo it.

And He tells us, through you, that He is good.

How is it, Madame Owl, that you can say so much, without saying anything at all?

Photos courtesy of Lauren Carswell and Luke Collin

Monday, February 16, 2009

Veil of Silence

Snow falls gently, almost undetected, for two days.

A veil above; a veil below. The translucent sky nestles us in with milky air. The upper chasm closes in, as though a sheer curtain were draped over our world. The accumulated snow hovers timidly on our soil, the merest breeze threatening to whisk it into a neighbouring county.

Silence above; silence below. The world quietly poses under the opaque sky, resting, waiting, holding its breath, whispering in hushed tones.

Secrets are unfolded in the quietness of the creamy veiling. We listen to the sound of silence.

I walk a mile from home, then stand still and strain my ears. The wind breathlessly brushes over the strings of telephone wire. A motor runs on the Colony two miles away. I think I can hear the voices of Hutterite men. This would never happen on a clear day, where the breeze carries our breath away and bids us run and work at his speed.

No, today the world is still, and we hear. The rustle of my windpants seems all-consuming; the panting of our gimpy dog follows me; the absence of vehicle motors secures me in solitude’s arbour.

Today the world is white, and we see. Sparrows pecking on the road leave behind miniature trails of their scampers. Gus the dog lumbers ahead of me for a while, and I see the crimson drops from his injured paw spattered on the virgin snow. And my footprints tell the tale of my pilgrimage.

Today, the world is frozen, and we feel. Prairie grass dances noiselessly, and when I turn around to head for home, the mute breeze hits my face, freezing my outer layer of skin. The cold seeps through my running shoes into my double-socked feet. As my jacket heaves, icy breaths chill my exposed neck. I notice that the thin layer of snow feels spongy under my feet.

Today, the world is bland, blanched, bleached, and we taste. My mind feeds on thoughts I never have space to contemplate; conclusions I am never able to reach finally find safe passage through the mists; truths I could not internalize take root in reflection’s garden.

Today, the world is swept and washed, and we smell. Impressions combine like ingredients; musing nourishes the soul with its rich simplicity.

Today, the world waits to echo. And we speak praise into the expectant recesses.

“Your lovingkindness is better than life. Therefore, my lips will praise You. I will bless you while I live. I will lift up my hands in Your name.” Psalm 63

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