By Joy Klumpp, Certified Texas Master Naturalist
September 4th is the anniversary of my mom’s death. It is not the anniversary per se that is difficult for me to deal with; it’s every single day of the year that I feel her absence. So while the date is a milestone, it is just another day that I live my life without my mom. Every day feels much smaller because my mother is no longer in my life.
While my mom was sick, she recommended a book to me: “Wesley the Owl” by Stacie O'Brien. I devoured it. It pulled at my heart strings and the very core of who I have always felt I am, or perhaps always desired to be. I feel awe when I read stories that are beyond comprehension—when humans and animals sync in such a way that I am left wondering how anyone could question the existence of God. I'm amazed at how a lucky few can unite with the spirits of animals and have a connection beyond anything humankind can understand.
This book sparked my passion for owls. I started learning what I could about the elusive birds. I listened to their calls for hours, learning how to distinguish the different species within the Texas area. I focused on the Barred Owl. It has an amazing call. I don’t know why I am so fascinated by this particular owl, because so many others are equally amazing, but there is just something in the way the Barred Owl communicates that stirs something inside me.
I had only seen one owl in the wild in my life: a Western Screech-Owl which just happened to be hanging out in my backyard one day. I’ve heard screech-owls and the Great Horned Owl, but I don’t get Barred Owls in my area of Houston. My encounters with owls for the most part have been auditory.
I felt pretty disappointed that I had yet to see a Great Horned Owl or Barred Owl. I feel silly for admitting this, but I remember praying that I would get to see one. It wasn’t one of those prayers I was thoroughly invested in. It was just a little conversation between me and God where I just expressed my desire to get to see one sometime. It seems so silly and trivial, but maybe it was because I knew my mom’s anniversary was approaching and I thought that perhaps seeing one would reunite me with my mom in some small way since, she was instrumental in fueling the fire in me for owls.
I planned a kayaking trip with a friend for September 4th, 2016 because I didn’t want to sit around the house. We had been kayaking only for a few hours when it began to rain. It was a serene, calming rain, and it occurred for what seemed like only a few moments. Then, as the rain began to dissipate, I heard it. It felt like I had tuned in to the middle of a conversation. I heard the final sentence draw to a close and caught the Barred Owl's last remark. And that is when I set eyes on the most beautiful bird ever. It perched there, its eyes locked on to me, motionless. I almost cried.
I realize some people will read this and say, “This woman is off her rocker!” But sometimes we are given experiences in life when we most need them. And I was given a gift.