The Owls and Me: A Poem on the Nature of Depression

colored-pencil-drawing-of-three-great-horned-owlsDid I dream there were three?

Staring at me with six amber eyes
from the fork in the ash tree.
Their shapes like pressed flowers
in the soft light of dawn,
when one is not sure if the slant of sun
means a new day,
or is remembered from some earlier rising-
the aftertaste of memory,


At first, there were two; we’d see them glide past our house and disappear into the top of a cottonwood tree down the block. They’d be out at dusk, rousing themselves after a hot day perched up high. Great horned owls are fascinating to watch. For an animal that’s so still most of the time, it’s amazing that I never get bored of observing them. One summer, the two regulars were suddenly four. Two fluffy, baby owls joined the mated pair on their nighttime excursions, hopping and screeching when mom and dad left them for too long. I could sit and watch them for hours, and all told, I’m sure I did.

They haven’t been around recently, and I miss seeing their stately forms keeping watch over the neighborhood. I’m not sure why I love owls so much. What I do know, however, is that those four owls were a source of happiness for me when things were hard. I’d sit on my bed and watch them sleep in the tree outside my window. I was going to sit on my bed and do nothing anyway, so I may as well spend that time watching the owls. Maybe there was a subtle sense of solidarity; the owls in their daily state of rest and me in my extended, bleary hibernation.


Of course, their tendency to sit very still also makes them excellent subjects for drawing.

Nature has always been a source of healing for me, so when being outside was too much to ask of myself, watching it through the window was the next best thing. Then, I’d put down what I saw on paper so that even in their absence, the owls were still here. 


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