This was probably one of the most profound experiences yet, and one I will cherish to this day. Of course all of this, and I truly mean all of it, is written with a somewhat curious pen, as there is that skeptic human living inside my body which tells me I am imagining all of this, and realistically there is no way my mother is responsible for any of this. Perhaps not, but it has been an integral part of my personal healing process and has made it one hell of a fun ride.
So, the journey continues… and if any day was going to make me a believer that there was indeed something to all of this, today was the day.
February 28,2015. One day before my birthday. The big 50.
Over the past two years, my husband has watched me morph into an avid bird watching, wildlife photographer who discovered a special connection to nature. I had never cared much for hikes in the woods, in fact my intolerance for mosquitoes and creepy crawly things kept me at a far distance. I actually remember crying on all of the school trips to the nature trails (I wasn’t the one you wanted to sit with).
This yearning to photograph wildlife ironically brought me back to those same trails, where I found a magnificent, peaceful existence unlike any other I had ever experienced. I was the same person, still didn’t like bugs, but there had been a major shift in those two years where my eyes were suddenly open and thirsty to take in everything, and all, that is beautiful.
In the fall of 2014 there was a Screech Owl sighting at a local cemetery, which a few photographer friends had managed to capture. I had photographed practically every bird known to exist where I lived, but never an Owl in the wild. This is high on everyone’s list, and because of that the exact location is never disclosed for the owl’s protection. I drove around that cemetery day after day in the hopes I’d find it, but never did. I’d have to make some trips deep into the woods to find my own owls. That’s when I started asking you know who if she could pull some strings…
Christmas arrives and my husband presented me with a Screech Owl box knowing how much I wanted to be able to photograph one. It would be a while until mating season was underway, but the box went up in January ready to take in any and all inhabitants with a cute little owl face. For the next two months we did hundreds of walk-bys hoping to catch a glimpse of something, a feather, dirt mark, twig, any tiny piece of evidence that we had an inhabitant…. nothing. This wasn’t going to be the year.
Back to the day before my Birthday… The Audubon Society was having a “Raptor shoot” where a limited number of photographers have an opportunity to photograph various breeds. It’s a great opportunity to not only learn about different Raptors, but seeing them up close is truly an honor and thrill. Well, out comes the most adorable Screech Owl. I remember my heart pounding wanting to get just the perfect shot as I had wanted to do in the wild. I remember wishing that we had one in our Owl box and feeling so disappointed that one never came. I mean, how could you not long to see one of these every day?
From the Audubon photo shoot.
We all wrapped up and I was feeling happy to have been able to at least have the opportunity to spend time with this little guy. My feet were completely numb from the bitter cold. Getting into the car was a huge relief. Then this happened: Heat cranked and ready to go, a text from my husband appears on my phone with the following message and photo.
“A birthday present is waiting for you at home…“
I couldn’t breath, then I started to scream, then I ran back with my phone to show the Raptor handlers at the Audubon yelling like a 5-year-old who had just seen Santa Claus. Was this a joke?
My excitement was immediately shared with the Audubon folks, who delicately brought me back down to earth so I could drive home safely. I could only hope that our new inhabitant would stick around for me to see it in person, but in the meantime was just thankful for an actual photo of it with proof that it was truly there. I am pretty sure when I arrived home half of my body was already out the door before I parked.
There, waiting snuggled in the owl box, was the gift of a lifetime.
But, far be it for the story to end here…
That very night my in-laws had planned the most wonderful bird themed “50 years flew by!” gathering in celebration of my new 1/2 Century status. I literally walked into a room of people yelling “Surprise!” with owl masks on, as well as an elegant bird cake, bird banner, bird seed gift bags, and a requirement to donate to our local Audubon Society as my gift. The invitation even had an owl on it (see below). “There we go again, right?”
Throughout the night, this owl was on everyone’s mind as more and more family members and friends started to secretly believe this was Mom’s way of saying “Happy Birthday”. After all, she never liked to be left out of anything and this was the show stopper that would top all other’s. The end.
More pics from the Audubon shoot
Click here for more information on the Eastern Screech Owl
To make a donation to the Audubon Society of Rhode Island in the celebration of “Mom” click here
2 thoughts on “The Birthday Present”
Heidi, This is amazing. I have tears in my eyes right now. I have loved reading your blog. It has been my morning ritual. You are not only an amazing photographer but a wonderful writer as well. I hope you continue. I know your mom is bursting with pride.
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Chris, you have known me for a very long time. It means more than you can possibly imagine that you feel this way. Thank you xoxoxo