I’m not as smart as you might think…
So last Friday, or was it the Friday before, I go for a trail run after it had been raining all day here in Southern California.
But I ended up not running too much. I just felt like walking. The sun was setting. The views of Catalina were spectacular.
So I ended up walking up the same hill that we run with the Beach Runners.
With an inch of mud on the bottom of my shoes I come around a big bush to see…
sitting on a big rock no more than two feet away from me.
I find out later he is a North American Grey Horned Owl. A formidable predator. Even known for attacking snakes, porcupines, and even skunks. There are rumors of them attacking humans.
But this one seemed mild enough.
So I looked this fantastic creature in his big “owl” eyes and felt that sense of companionship one would feel in the presence of a fellow intelligent animal.
And thought was the owl quite as intelligent as people make them out to be?
Owl, wise though he was in many ways, was able to read and write and spell his own name WOL, yet somehow went all to pieces over delicate words like MEASLES and BUTTEREDTOAST. (Winnie the Pooh)
After snapping this photo. This creature of the night didn’t take too kindly too a digital flash from my camera and flew across the canyon.
Elated as Pooh with honey, I skipped up the rest of the hill all chortled with my bit of luck.
Or was it really luck?
See the owl has had a bad rap throughout history.
The Egyptians would draw Hieroglyphic Owl with broken legs so they would not return to life. The Hopi believed they would bring sorcery and death. The Aztecs and Mayans thought Owl brought death and destruction.
The Japanese see the horned owl (gulp!) as a demonic figure. The Romans considered the Owl as funeral bird.
Good thing the Owl did not “hoot” at me.
But there’s some positive traditions with the Owl also.
The Greeks pictured Owl as companion of Athena, goddess of wisdom. Somehow that Owl stored all the secret knowledge that never gets taught to you in school. That’s why you’ll see Owl around Washington D.C. And there’s a hidden owl on a dollar bill. You’ll have to look hard to find him…(hint look in the right hand corner).
Amongst the Hindus, Owl is a Vahana (a vehicle) for the prosperity and wealth of Lakshmi, wife of Shiva. Okay now we’re talking. This is the kind of myth I like to think about…untold riches showing up at my doorstep…no more commuting…a new car….
Back to reality.
As I was thinking all these professory thoughts, Owl flew over my head again and landed up the hillside from me. Checking me out. Maybe he wanted another photo. I asked and he must have felt one was enough as he flew away again.
So a tradition goes that when we are in nature, the animals we see are symbolic.
Yet all I could think of was Owl from Winnie the Pooh.
Owl explained about the Necessary Dorsal Muscles. He had explained this to Pooh and Cristopher Robin once before, and had been waiting ever since for a chance to do it again, because it is a thing which you can easily explain twice before anyone knows what you are talking about.
You see because I always liked Owl. He was the smart one. The one that actually read books. Well maybe Christopher Robin did also.
He was filled with somewhat useless knowledge. But it sounded real smart. And the other animals looked up to this.
He could spell his own name WOL, and he could spell Tuesday so that you knew it wasn’t Wednesday, and he could read quite comfortably when you weren’t looking over his shoulder saying “Well?” all the time, and he could -
“Well?” said Rabbit.
Okay, maybe except for Rabbit. Rabbit had a different type of smarts. This idea is also supported by Rabbit’s comment to him, “You and I have brains. The others have fluff.”
And that is a whole other story which I am way too tired after grading student essays all day and lecturing to possibly go into this time of the evening.
See let me tell you a secret about Owl.
He wasn’t quite as smart as people made him out to be.
But someone had to be “book smart” in the Winnie the Pooh Stories. And Owl always had a bit of facts from a book. Or maybe even a long going nowhere story to add to the escapades.
“The atmospheric conditions have been very unfavourable lately,” said Owl.
“It has been raining,” explained Owl.
“Yes,” said Christopher Robin. “It has.”
“The flood-level has reached an unprecedented height.”
“There’s a lot of water about,” explained Owl.
So what does all of this have to do with running?
You might be asking.
Actually not much at all.
But it sure made for a good owl story.