Snowy Owls on Christmas Morning

Snowy Owls on Christmas Morning

We spent Christmas Eve in town with my mom in her independent living facility. We had dinner in the common dining room, chatting with her neighbors, and then returned to her apartment to read A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas.

This morning, across the snow-covered parking lot, the tall blue spruce still glows with blue and white lights. Not even the resident Canadian Geese are stirring. Soon, we’ll bundle into the car to visit our daughter’s home and the merry rauckous will begin.

For those of you who are celebrating Christmas, I wish you a day filled with joy, both in the moments of stillness and in those of communion. I’m sharing, below, the short nonfiction piece I wrote for our Winter Solstice Reading last week. The story is a reflection about a moment of quiet communion I experienced when I was a child in Alaska. I hope it will bless your day as it did mine.



Snow Owls

It was late afternoon, sky black and glittering, in the deep Alaskan winter. I walked the trail between my friend Jane’s house and mine, leaving behind the old homestead with its metal half-round dwelling, golden light etching distorted square panes across the untouched snow.

The stars grew brighter as the air cleared of chimney smoke, and I cut through a hushed forest of hoar-frosted birch and stunted mountain hemlocks, snow-laden and slumping heavily against each other. Branches thick with white crystals and mounds of snow, brilliant white, reflected starlight. I walked with mittened hands pushed deep into the pockets of my down parka, the only sound the rhythmic crunch of mukluks on encrusted snow.

Until the reverberation of icy air carved open by wings – and two great white snowy owls alighted in the frozen birch beside me. White, on white, on white, and four bright gold eyes blinking. I could have reached out and touched their feathered bodies. I stood breathing in the sparkling silence, blinking back, my toes and fingers and cheeks growing numb.

If there is a center of our lived experience, something beyond the birth of our children, the death of a loved one, something beyond the major milestones in life – graduations, marriages, retirements – this moment of sacred silence was mine. When the world spins in chaos, my memory of two snowy owls in a hoar-frosted birch tree is the eye of the hurricane. A single moment in my childhood on the longest night of the year. Winter Solstice.    


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