The Owl Box
March 28, 2010
Last Tuesday my mom emailed me a link to a live streaming video of a wild owl that was sitting on her 5 eggs. It is happening in San Marcos, the town where we live. They have dubbed the owl “Molly,” and she currently has 3 owlets and 2 eggs to go. It has been an amazing thing to watch and has caused me to reflect on some things.
First, it is wonderful to see this creature who instinctively knows her purpose and calling in life. Especially during this season of egg laying and hatching. I think this sense was even more profound before any of the eggs hatched. I watched this live-streaming video for days before any eggs hatched and this is what I observed: Molly would just sit, carefully hunched over the eggs, standing every ten minutes to gently rotate her eggs so that the heat from her body was evenly distributed. Her “husband,” who they call MaGee, would come in at night to deliver food to her – rats, gophers, small rabbits. Other than leaving the box to go to the bathroom, Molly’s dedication to brooding over her eggs was complete. During this stage, I watched Molly just breathing in and out, seemingly content to be in a cramped box in an uncomfortable-looking position for 35 days since she layed the eggs. Her quietness, her contentment, her sense of purpose was so calming to me. She wasn’t anylyzing or fretting over her vocation. She simply was. She sat, she rotated eggs, she fluffed her nest, she waited for her food.
It made me envy the situation of animals on this earth in a way. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t want to be an owl, eating raw rodents and doing other owlish activities. But the certainty, the resolve, the steadfastness of her behavior was inspirational. Dave teases me, claiming that I am too obsessed with this owl, but the experience of watching her in this mode reminded me so much of the command in the Psalms: Be still and know that I am God. Obviously, Molly was not consciously knowing that God is God as she sits on these eggs, but her stillness kindled in me a quietness of soul and a renewed sense of trust in God’s goodness and provision. Like somehow, if I had a fraction of the instinct and surety of my purpose in my daily life that Molly has in her egg-sitting patience, my life would run a lot more smoothly. Or my peace would stay a lot more intact.
The second thing that I’ve been reflecting on is how wonderful and wild a world we live in! It’s a world of mystery and wonder, if only our eyes are open to see it! And this owl box has given us a glimpse into a usually very private event…the hatching of a clutch of owls. I just happened to be reading Charlotte’s Web to the children the week that we discovered Molly, and E.B. White’s wonderful writing about the conversation between Mrs. Arable and Dr. Dorian just reinforced the wonder of Molly’s instinct for me. I love this conversation so much that I’m putting it in:
“Have you heard about the words that appeared in the spider’s web?” asked Mrs. Arable nervously.
“Yes,” replied the doctor.
“Well, do you understand it?” asked Mrs. Arable.
“Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider’s web?”
“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. but nobody pointed out the web itself is a miracle.”
“What’s miraculous about a spider’s web?” said Mrs. Arable. “I don’t see why you say a web is a miracle – it’s just a web.”
“Ever try to spin one?” asked Dr. Dorian.
Mrs. Arable shifted uneasily in her chair. “No,” she replied. “But I can crochet a doily and I can knit a sock.”
“Sure,” said the doctor. “But somebody taught you, didn’t they?”
“My mother taught me.”
“Well, who taught a spider? A young spider knows how to spin a web without any instructions from anyone. Don’t you regard that as a miracle?”
“I suppose so,” said Mrs. Arable. “I never looked at it that way before. Still I don’t understand how those words got into the web. I don’t understand it, and I don’t like I can’t understand.”
“None of us do,” said Dr. Dorian, sighing. “I’m a doctor. Doctors are supposed to understand everything. But I don’t understand everything, and I don’t intend to let it worry me.”
Mrs. Arable fidgeted. “Fern says the animals talk to each other. Dr. Dorian, do you believe animals talk?”
“I never heard one say anything,” he replied. “But that proves nothing. It is quite possible that an animal has spoken civilly to me and that I didn’t catch the remark because I wasn’t paying attention. Children pay better attention than grownups… Perhaps if people talked less, animals would talk more. People are incessant talkers – I can give you my word on that.”
Okay, I know that was long, but SO GOOD! The embracing of mystery. The paying attention to the everyday miracles in the world. The inability to understand everything with our big old brains, and the resolve to not let it worry us. The taking of example from creatures who are not so “smart” as us, but wiser in their way. The rebuke about incessant talking. There’s wisdom for you!
Molly is now caring for her new babies. A new miracle. It’s different from the “waiting for them to hatch” stage. She’s an attentive, busy momma. And well worth a visit to her webpage to share in the wonder! (My suggestion: minimize the comments, make it the whole computer screen. The commenters are great examples of the incessant talkers.) 🙂