"A willing heart adds feather to the heel." (Joanne Baillie)
We have encountered our owl nearly every night we've walked this week. Since stumbling upon him last year in his perch I have been unable to pass the tree without thinking of that moment when I looked up into his big eyes, so close and round and so very yellow, even in the darkness. Every night I have looked for him there in that crooked and ugly elm growing near the top of the hill above the playground, sickly in its nakedness and overrun with jagged, crowded branches and impatient twigs, wondering if we'd find him as we did last year, unexpectedly and with sudden joy, but it hasn't been. We have seen him circling high overhead, heard him from some perfect, invisible spot above the shore of the lake, have even watched him drift in lazy, motionless circles over our heads but we have never come as close as we did that first night when I could have reached out a mittened hand and stroked the softness of his chest.
This morning, early, when the world was still gray and smelled of the damp, long before the sun rose above the sloppy clouds in the east, as we loped across the big soccer field, my shoes squishing in the new mud left behind by the last of the week's snow, our owl cut right in front of us, falling out of the bottommost branches of one elm, gliding across the field right in front of us, and alighting near the top of a larger tree where its head bobbed and twisted in that alien and unsettling way. As he crossed our path a single feather, small and immaculately white wafted down toward us. Duncan craned his neck to watch the big bird while I took a few steps forward and plucked the feather out of the yellowed grass where it had come to rest. It was a reminder that in a few short weeks I'll be packing up the car again, loading Duncan into the back seat where he can--but won't--rest amid a pile of blankets and pillows, a few toys scattered around him. We will make the long trek back to Idaho for the holidays. And as last year, I'm a little anxious at the thought of being alone on the road in whatever conditions The Universe decides to throw at us. Having proven to myself last Christmas that the trip could be made even in the most difficult weather I am not as frightened, and the feather dropping out of the sky like a wish or a prayer has reminded me of the magic feathers I collected last year and the good they did me, or rather, the good they showed me I could do for myself.
And so, here I am again, inviting you to send me a feather for the road, a blessing of safe passage and strong heart. If you choose to send one they can be anything vaguely featherish. Last December I received newspaper clippings, paintings and watercolors, ink drawings, stuffed animals, music and actual feathers from a variety of birds: peacocks, pheasants, hawks, parrots, crows, geese, even feathers shaped like butterflies. As long as it has a whispered good wish I would love to include it in the silver-ish gold bag Kevi sent me to hold them all. Send me an email and I'd be glad to provide you with my address.