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Seeing the Owl

We are immersed in so much noise! The chatter can be deafening . . . defying the most heroic attempts to discern God’s loving presence and wise guidance in the midst of it all. How do we see God-with-us in, through, and beyond the noise? What actions can we embrace to stay present and centered in the midst of chaos? One action I take is to walk. Outside. In the woods. There I find respite from the noise. Yet, even there, I often need a little help, if I am to do more than simply “escape” for a few moments.

One morning I was on just such a walk, traveling through shade and into light. It was good to feel the coolness of the breeze on my face and the warmth of the sun on my back; comforting to hear the crunch of my steps on the path . . . In no time at all I was “lost” in thought; and, ironically, no longer present to the woods through which I walked. Gradually, however, I was roused from my musing by a rising awareness of a great commotion in the trees above. I stopped. I listened. And I looked up to find a group of agitated – and very vocal – birds. They were Stellar Jays. Trust me when I tell you that a chorus of Jays can be quite jarring. As I stood there, peering into the trees toward the source of distraction, I slowly awakened to a pair of very dark eyes peering back at me. There, at the center of chaos, sat a silent, still, and, by all signs, absolutely unruffled Spotted Owl. It was a rare and marvelous sighting! And I would have walked right by, blindly preoccupied, were it not for those noisy Jays.

Standing there, seeing and being seen, I came to this insight: It was by being present to the noise - hearing it, observing it, peering into it – that I was able to see the Owl. What could have been missed by an absence of mind was brought into view as I had the presence of mind to pay attention. To the noise. Yes. And more: to that still presence which was in, behind, and under the chatter. My friends, the Jays, jolted me out of my musing and into the present moment. Once there, I, by the grace of God, had the presence of heart, mind, and soul, to stop, listen, look, and see the Owl . . .

Yes, we are immersed in much noise. And, with the help of companions on the way, we can, grace upon grace, discern God’s loving presence and wise guidance in the chaos. This is necessary and life-giving work. And a spiritual director can help (in ways more gentle than a Jay). I would be honored to help you see the Owl.

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