One of the nice things about where I live (the apartment location) is it’s close proxmity to a park. Not one of the large square parks, and nothing as cool as I tried to move next to earlier (a large forest), but still, it is very cool and I am discovering every time I visit just how cool it is.
The park is a creek that runs through Beaverton and along both sides the land has been saved for habitat. Beyond this is residential on one side, and corporate offices on the other side. Inside the long park, a few miles long, is an oasis of tranquility within the busy city.
As I was walking I caught sight of the shape of a falcon, or a hawk, in the treetops. The last time I’ve been on this particular portion of the path I saw a hawk/falcon flying high overhead, scanning the grass below. This time, however, it was two of them sitting in a tree. One was slightly larger than the other. As I stood there, looking, two people came by, wondering what I was looking at, and they noticed the birds as well. I sat in the grass and did a rough pencil sketch of the trees. As I lay there, an elderly couple came by and noticed the birds also. They asked me if I draw often, to which I replied “rarely anymore”. They then asked me if I’d like to see an owl.
I asked how far away and they said “twenty paces”. We walked about twenty steps away and the man told me to stand on a brown spot at the edge of the bushes. I did. He said “look to your left”. There was a tree and about nine feet up, in a small hollow from a missing limb, was a small screetch owl, the size of big fat coffee mug, sitting with it’s eyes closed. The man said that they stop by to see the owl every day, that he’s here in the summer time but is gone during the winter. I took some steps back to give space to the owl, still sleeping it seems.
I thanked the couple profusely and was overcome with joy. The couple turned and went one way, I went another. This time, going the speed that I customarily took while walking the forest in Houston’s arboretum where it’d take me hours to go a hundred yards. Rememering some of Starhawk’s book “The Earth Path” (a book I recently bought this weekend and read the first two chapters at the armory) I revelled in the growing shadows, the rising moon, the stilling of the Earth, the coming of night. I felt such an overwhelming sense of joy, of peace, of relaxation. To my left a gray squirrel jumped from limb to limb. To my right a crow cawed. The silver moon shone through the leaves above.
I continued my walk forward, through the pocket of trees and out into the clearing. After a ways I heard a ruckus behind me. The crows were all cawing excitedly. I turned and trotted back to where they were and then peered into the trees to get a glmpse of whatever it was that had their attention. I could discern nothing, but after a while they settled down. A family passed me by, all on bicycles and animated in their language.
I turned back into the copse of trees. Ahead of me, at the far edge where the little owl (the elderly couple said it’s name was Owliver) was a mother with her daughter, perhaps five or so. The daughter was having difficulty with the bike. As I neared, I asked them if they wanted to see an owl, as it was only five meters away from them. I walked a few steps off the path and pointed to the owl. The mother was eager to show the owl to her little girl. As I was doing this, the animated family came by and I pointed out the owl to them as well, the two kids around three to five years old as well. Too young, I figured, to come disturb the owl with sticks and rocks, but young enough (and old enough) to get a sense of wonder from seeing the owl. The parents were thrilled and in hushed tones showed their children the wonder before them.
I turned and left them to their private moment, hoping that a seed was planted, a love of Nature, a reverence to grow in their hearts. As I walked a bit further, the tree that I had noticed earlier with the two hawks in it, had one it it this time and at a different portion of the tree. I made note on my earlier sketch if perhaps this part had the nest (the limbs were too thick to see clearly). I found myself wishing for both a camera with a zoom, as well as a good pair of fielf binoculars (my last pair were beaten up after much use).
Contiuing on I walked until I came to a good little hill. Nothing large, perhaps a two or three foot rise with several small trees scattered about it’s crown. It was approachign dusk now and colors were draining out of the world. I lay on the hill side and gazed out into the trees, clinging onto their greens as best as they could, while the sky became richer and richer in blue and navy. A gentle breeze moved about sporadically, first in this tree, then across the field in that tree, then over me. One tree’s leaves would rustle softly while the tree next to it stood still.
I leaned back and gazed up into the branches, watching the little green leaves quiver on the branches. The moon glowed a brilliant silver, unable to contain all of it’s brilliance and blurring it’s edges, leaking silver out into the surrounding sky. I felt at peace, content, and happy.
Walking back home, I entertained myself with the thoughts that brought me out onto the walk to begin with (other than to enjoy the arrival of night), the questions of religion and exclusion and plurality. Pagans of different paths and traditions seemed to get along, to accept each other’s views and yet hold to their own. How is it that others, such as many Christians, Muslims, and Jews cannot? I asked a co-worker, a devout Christian, if I would go to hell, even though I lived a good life to my best ability, but did not follow Christ. She said yes. How could a god be called loving to afford an eternal punishment for such a transgression against his pride and vanity? No, that was not the face of god. I do not believe that such beauty in the world, such peace, such fulfillment, is the result of trick of the devil. Can evil bring about beauty? Can evil bring about peace? No, I do not believe it. It is not mere pride on my part that does not follow the jealous god of the Old Testament… as it is with so many that criticise and attack the Christian church (their words are full of venom and hate), but a love of the path that I’ve found, a deep appreciation for the connections made with the reality around me.