This is the tree where he sat and watched us walk by.
Ranger had posed at the same place earlier this fall.
Just as before, what I noticed first was a silent movement in the darkness.
A flurry of black shapes flitted across deep shadows.
I thought I was seeing a cluster of autumn leaves blown across the grass.
But wait. There was no wind.
In the split second that my mind pondered the contradiction, the fluttering darkness rose up from the ground and lit on a low branch of the nearby tree.
Soundlessly, Without so much as a hint of a whisper.
My skin burst out in a thousand tiny prickles.
And that is when I knew.
My owl was back.
Or more correctly, I was back to walking in the cover of darkness. Through the long days of summer and early fall, Ranger and I enjoyed our walks during the extended hours of daylight. Since we turned our clocks back last weekend, and the days grow shorter as the solstice draws near, our afternoon adventures veer closer to twilight. On this particular day, we'd left home later than usual and darkness had fallen completely.
My owl was just where I had seen him three times last winter, apparently still thriving on this schoolyard hunting ground.
He - or she - perched silent and still on the branch as we quietly walked past, oblivious Ranger with his nose in the bushes on the other side of the drive, me tingling from head to toe and trying to still the pounding of my heart.
My owl never moved.
As I walked on, still in a state of mystic shock, I pondered the fact that although I have had my fair share of wildlife encounters, I've never experienced anything so exhilarating, so mystifying, so profoundly spiritual as the sightings of my owl.
And I thank God for this powerful gift.
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For more stories about my owl, read these: