Like a scene from some Norman Rockwell painting of the Midwest, I was sitting on the porch stoop enjoying some watermelon while lightning bugs began their twilight mating rituals, tiny Vegas signs beckoning members of the opposite sex with bright lights and the promise of a good time. It should have been more pensive, but honestly I was escaping from the non-stop chatterfest that was my boys alternating between bickering and shouting over one another. I was mulling over recent conversations, and one snippet was on heavy replay: “I think you’ve been impatient in the past, and now I see you and you’ve learned a little more about patience.” As kids we can’t wait to hit double digits, as teens we want to get that I.D., in our 20’s we rush to be taken seriously and make a name for ourselves. In our 30’s we speed up to chase that dollar and we’re always in such a goddamn hurry to get from here to there that our lives parallel rush hour on an LA Freeway, complete with righteous indignation and liberal use of the middle finger at our enemies, real or perceived.
Patience is a virtue that eludes most of us, seemingly. In a hurry to mend a broken heart or a wounded soul, we might not take enough time to discover where the bottom of our barrel is, and as a result, never know how low we can go into the depths of pain. I’m not advocating living there, but when we hit that wall, we know the reality of the pain, and the lesson is learned; it turns out that touching a hot stove will prove, indeed, that that shit hurts.
So with great gratitude, I sat on my stoop and contemplated that one sentence. My impulsive nature has burned me like that hot stove, but it is also what keeps my creative animal fed. I suppose with age and miles we somehow wrangle that animal a bit as more grey hairs make their appearance. In the last few months, there have been so many changes for the good, changes that affirm each small step along the way. Sitting there in a rare moment of quiet, something raced out of the corner of my vision, something rather unusual: it was an owl, a big ol’ bastard at that, swooping from one tree to another.
It came to light on a branch and in a manner befitting the species, cranked his head around and stared right at me, blinking a few times in some weird show of machismo. We locked eyes for a few moments while he sized me up as a slightly too big to haul off for dinner and I just stared slack-jawed, watermelon spilling out of my mouth like an idiot. I didn’t yell for my kids. I didn’t reach for my phone to take a picture, I just took in the moment. Patiently.
In a moment or three, he’d seen all he needed to, and with what seemed like a 16 foot wingspan, took off, headed low then high and over the rooftops and on to his next chapter. I’m not one for superstitions or worshipping creatures or rock stars, so I hesitate to ascribe to it more value than what it was, but still…..
Still there is a part of me that saw our time there as an omen of sorts. I’ve always thought owls were kinda misunderstood badasses and I respect their solitary foray into this world. I’ve spent time drawing owls for her, finding cards with owl references, kept my eyeballs glued to documentaries about them; a low-level obsession, really. And in a moment, a moment of patience and gratitude, one came by for an unannounced visit.
Maybe it was the first watermelon of summer drawing him in. Maybe he was avoiding his own kids squawking at one another back in the nest. Maybe it was being able to see what happens when we don’t rush things, when patience sets the pace and a calm gratitude sets the course.
Whatever his reasons, I am grateful for the visit, as I am grateful for the kids hollering at each other inside the house, grateful for the chance to be here for another day. Grateful for a moment with a delicious watermelon on my porch and a loving song deep within my soul.