We heard the fuss before we understood it.
My husband, Ralf, and I were both in our tiny bedroom-turned-office when a cacophony of screeching birds began flying about in our backyard.
I listened but dismissed the sound. I was busy with some obligation, some deadline.
Ralf, brought up by parents who were quick to stop to observe nature, stood up and leaned over my desk toward the window.
"Wow," he said.
Ralf is not prone to making simple, one-word statements. He is a professor of linguistics and likes syntactically interesting formulations.
"Wassup?" I muttered, though I was really hoping the interruption would be short and I could finish my task.
"Just look outside, honey."
So I stood up and looked out the window.
Way at the end of our yard I saw about a dozen blue jays dive-bombing near our Hugo tree. That tree is still struggling for survival, more than two decades after the hurricane. It was once bent half out of the earth and, to this day, leans markedly toward the house.
It took me a few minutes to see what all the noise and fuss was about.
A really sizable bird was sitting on a branch. And it wasn't the red-shouldered hawk that had been visiting us some weeks ago.
I wasn't sure what it was.
"It's an owl," Ralf said.
"Do you know where the binoculars are?" I asked, and minutes later we were taking turns watching the owl sit calmly on a limb while birds flew about his head, screeching angrily. One of the birds actually bopped the poor guy on the head. He wasn't bothered in the slightest. He stayed put.
At one point, he turned his round head about. I looked through the binoculars. Eerily, it seemed he was staring right back at me.
He was a steady fellow. While the other birds continued to sound the alarm, he sat in his own surety, in his own silence. He possessed owl wisdom, owl integrity, and he knew it.
I was envious.
How would it be, I wondered, to live life so sure of yourself that you could dismiss the noise around you? How many of us feel pulled and tugged about by others who demand that we take a different place, act a different way, become something we aren't?
Ralf shook his head. "It's amazing, isn't it? Even under direct attack, he stays put."
The owl has been on my mind for a while. I think we can learn from him. There's a lot of screeching out there that isn't worth our notice, after all.
There are better things to do. There's a lot to do, actually, in a world that needs our care.
Let us be wise, like owls. Let us take note of our own hopes and dreams and stay put with the integrity they give us.