I’ve had this written and sitting in a file on my computer for a week now. I wasn’t sure I liked it when I first wrote it, so I wanted to walk away for a few days before I decided if it would be posted here or not. Usually I can write the one liner the day I’m posting it and have it done up and live here on the blog within half an hour, but for some reason this one didn’t sit with me the same as most. I can’t place it. Reading it today, I couldn’t find anything I particularly hated about it. Maybe it’s just too close to me.
This story was written (more like scribbled down) last week when I went for a walk around midnight to clear my head. I had no idea which direction I was going, I just walked. The air felt strange, almost heavy, but it was crisp and cool, the way the Yukon always is this time of year. I’ve been hearing an owl outside my home for years now. It comes and goes, but I had not actually seen it in almost 5 years. I did see it last week during that walk. It stayed where it was as I walked closer, and the air was so still, and there was so little noise around that I did hear its talons on the lamp post when it took to the air.
Let me be clear on this now. I do not think it was some huge or supernatural experience. It was strange, yes. That owl kept me company for over half an hour. It was special to me because I’ve always loved owls, and I’ve always felt a special attachment to them. I remember studying them when I was in the 4th grade, and being completely fascinated by them. The sounds they make, although eerie, are oddly comforting to me. When I stayed on First Nations land for 10 days several years back, sleeping in a tent and hiking and learning about the local flora and fauna at a place a couple of hours in the back country, there was an owl that I heard every night before I went to sleep. It calmed me, and I felt so energized that I wrote half of the first draft of Between Love and Death in those 10 days.
Seeing that owl last week felt like a personal thing. It’s normal to see wildlife here in Whitehorse. So it’s not strange that I did see it, not really. There is at least one red fox that lives nearby and visits my yard, there are wolves I hear howling some nights, there are coyotes and bears and eagles, deer, even moose. As much as I love seeing those animals, there was something that felt different about this owl. I can pinpoint certain encounters with animals that stand out to me as being slightly strange, as if I was meant to see them, and there aren’t really very many of those encounters. This was one of them.
When I say there are very few, I mean I can probably count them on my fingers. Two years ago, in November of 2013, there was an encounter only a few hundred feet from my home while I was walking my dog at night. I came face to face with a pure white wolf. We stared at eachother for nearly five minutes before it walked closer, rubbed against my leg, and kept walking as if we had some unspoken understanding. It was one of the more terrifying experiences I’ve had with any wild animal in all of my years here, but it was so amazing when I look back on it now. It didn’t growl, it showed no threat whatsoever. (Keep in mind, all of you skeptics, that I have been living in the far north for most of my life, and I can identify animals very easily. This was no dog. I grew up spending countless nights in the middle of the woods with my family being surrounded by wild animals, and wolves have always been one of my favourite animals. I can tell the difference between wolves and coyotes and domestic dogs very easily, and I have seen that same white wolf plenty of times with the others in its pack during daylight hours, including a black one and a couple of grey ones. And despite it being late at night, we were standing on the street with street lamps overhead.)
About 7 years ago, I had an encounter with a red fox in January in another area of town. I watched two of them run by as I was walking with my best friend at the time, and then a third appeared and sat only a couple of feet away from us, and even posed for photos, as I happened to have a camera in my purse. I could have reached out and touched it, but chose not to in case I scared it. Also at night.
I have photos of me as a child holding little wild birds that decided to come say hi, and I made friends with the wild rabbits on my dad’s wood lot, even holding the babies as the mother sat watching. But there was something about this owl that stood out.
Back at the end of July, when I stayed in Haines Junction with my best friend for a few days while she worked, I had an encounter with two owls as well. A young one with an older one. We saw them on our way back to our campsite after driving to Kluane to take photos, and we pulled over to try to get photos. When we did, they were at a graveyard (fitting, I know), and I spent half an hour standing at the fence of the graveyard taking photos of them. The young one kept coming closer, and didn’t leave my sight. We finally had to leave when it became too dark to take decent photos. This also happened to fall on the night of the supermoon that month, which was shining brightly over us as I watched the owls.
There was also a raven that made itself at home in the campsite anytime I was there alone, and was actually pretty awesome company aside from the whiskey jacks, the dog, and the woodpecker that kept coming back. Not to mention the bats that apparently only really hung out when I was there. (You’ll all come to learn that bats are one of my favourites as well, and I have a HUGE soft spot for them.)
Maybe these encounters were just by chance, but they felt different at the time, like they were more significant somehow. I’ve been seeing owls constantly for months now, and I see them everywhere. And I do mean living owls, not just images of them. I would pay no mind, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many owls in my entire life as I have this summer and autumn. There was an even stranger encounter involving a little brown bat during my stay in Haines Junction, but I will leave that for some other time, as it’s not quite as happy as some other things I’ve mentioned. Still extremely significant, but not for today’s post.
So are any of you spiritual people? Do you believe in animal guides, or signs from some unknown force? Do you believe that there is some significance in seeing certain animals, especially repeatedly? Let me know, as I’d love to hear some experiences from other people as well.