Owls: Heartbeats and poetry

My fascination with snowyowls continues. I do wonder if – as the days get longer and the snow recedes here – I might become more interested in another owl species. I don’t know. I found a really good site –youth for wildlife – with tips for photographing snowy owls. That would be an amazing experience.

I was actually looking for information about the snowy owl’s heart rate, without much success. One site however- about Alice, a permanently injured owl living in a sanctuary in Houston, Texas,estimated that her regular heart beat was probably around 90 beats per minute, but when stressed  it rose five-fold to about 330 beats per minute!

We humans suffer in the same way. Cardio vascular disease is so often related not only to what we eat (or don’t eat) and our life style (exercise and other habits) but also to the kind of stress we put ourselves under. The 24/7 multi-tasking world we live in raising our blood pressure, get the adrenaline and cortisol whizzing around, flick on the fight or flight mode in us- and will kill us eventually if we don’t wake up to its unhealthy demands on us – and choose to follow a different way of living, with different values. This year of travelling with the owls is part of my trying to do that!

“The life of a poem is measured in regular heart beats”

so writes Steven Fry, in his book  The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within

I’m currently participating on an online course called ‘Literature and Mental Health’. The first week’s focus is on stress, and one of the first video clips from a medical practitioner made the point that there is no ‘one size fits all’ in medicine. We need different approaches of treatment and a success rate of a particular drug (e.g. in preventing heart attacks) might be considered good if it works in one patient in twenty, which was a bit shocking! In the course we’re currently looking into how poems are created. Other than free verse, all poems have a particular and specific beat (in technical terms it’s called metre – and most of I suspect remember learning about iambic pentameter at school in English literature classes since it was favoured by Shakespeare amongst others).

What I only just realised is that the da-DUM of a human heartbeat is the most common example of this rhythm.

da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM

Is there a link between that – and our feeling safe perhaps?
Is that why poetry can (sometimes) help calm us, or soothe us?

I found a fun blog today called Dear Owls. Its creator ‘a girl with a fondness for owls’ wrote a fun poem called ‘Poem || Heartbeat’

. See what you think …


There are three reasons why people jog:
1. They wish to lose weight
2. They wish to have alone time
3. They need to feel their heart again
For the longest time, I’ve focused on number one. I never even cared about the other two reasons,
One day, I realized I needed a new hiding place.
Far away from the drama that everyone seems to have, and
Far away from everything I can’t run away from
So, I pretend.
I’m on the treadmill and
I close my eyes.
I imagine my problems chasing after me.
But I don’t run away from them because, I’m not that fast
So I learn to run with them
And befriend my problems like they were my
Cup of coffee
Did I mention I hate coffee these days?
But that’s beside the point.
Ask me what happens when you run with your problems?
You start to run faster because
You can now look past your past
Like what happened doesn’t matter and what will be is far more important
Like a pair of wings you never knew
You could grow
And so, I run so fast
I’m talking ultrasonic speed that I went back in time
And I saw myself running
Again and again and
Then I stopped to catch my breath, and I feel it.
Pounding like marching bands in London Square
Announcing the Queen’s arrival
I feel it.
Singing like girls in the orphanage that never got a home
Tap dancing in Hollywood’s best theater
Screaming like women in labor
Howling like the babies coming out of them
Gambling like poker on
When you know you’re dead broke
But you still try and Oh
I feel it.
Louder than Big Ben, Taller than Burj Khalifah
Faster than Ultrasonic speed
And I went back in time to feel it
Again and again and
An organ that lost its donor so many times
Due to heartbreaks and mishaps
Fights and complications
People telling it where it can and cannot bleed
Where it can and cannot be
What it can and cannot see
I feel it.
Pounding in my chest, as if to say,
Your coffee is getting cold.
Posted in 2016 the owl, Literature and Mental Heath, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The owl looks at how her love of reading …

What is stress?

In poetry, the word ‘stress’ refers to the emphasis of certain syllables in a poem’s metre. How might the metrical ‘stresses’ of poetry help us to cope with the mental and emotional stresses of modern life?

That’s a question this owl is about to look into during the next week. It’s part of am online course called ‘Literature and Mental Health’ and my participation has come about in part because of my decision at New Year that ‘minä itse’ is out. I choose to be part of something bigger than myself – to be blessed by my God-given Parliament of owls – but also to be part of a wider conversation.

Part of the blurb in the introduction to the course today invited us into a conversation, to learn from and with actors, writers and medical professionals, and to get involved and to eavesdrop. I think I’m going to enjoy the latter.

Part of my learning will be not to try to befriend everyone or to be part of every conversation. The group is just too large. So I’m praying for the owl to bring me wisdom as to where to invest my energy, and the great owlish powers of perception and intuition.

More to follow …

Posted in 2016 the owl, Literature and Mental Heath | Leave a comment

what a blessing to be the owl!

The owl brings you wisdom as well as great powers of perception and intuition.  Welcome her into your heart and life gladly!


The owl has very keen hearing and vision, enabling her to perceive what others cannot.  With her powers within you, you will be able to penetrate the darkness with your intuitive senses.  You will see through deception and illusion.  You will uncover all mysteries and bring truth to light.  Fill yourself with her power whenever the truth is unclear or hidden; she will shine the light so you may see.


The owl also allows you to move silently and unseen.  When you do not want undue attention paid to you, when you wish to just quietly keep your own counsel, call in her spirit as you would an invisibility cloak.


One of the greatest powers the owl brings you is to penetrate your own secrets, to see into the beauty of your own soul and uncover there your personal truth and intentions.  Feel her within you now, opening yourself to yourself, your true purpose sparkling like a treasure within.


Ah, what a blessing to be the owl!

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The Peace of Wild Things

I came across this poem yesterday and it really touched me and spoke into my life.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be …

I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief.

I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light.

For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free

(Poem by Wendell Berry, although I’ve changed the layout of the poem)

What does it mean to come into the presence of still water, I wonder.
I sense intentionality both in the seeking out of still water -and then subsequently in the resting/abiding in that place.

The image of day-blind stars waiting with their light, is also a very powerful image – suggesting to me that light will always overcome darkness.

And then I think of the owl, whose preferred time of day is actually night – or in the shadowlands of dusk and dawn, and who, while waiting for the right moment to be on the move, is part of the peace of wild things.

Can I enter that peace, I wonder.

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Seeds, seedlings

Owls don’t eat seeds, they are further up the food chain than that. They eat rodents (mice and rats), lemmings and other small mammals. When the food source is scarce they might migrate to a new, less familiar location in order to survive.

This owl, however, found herself thinking about seeds this morning. The particular brand of porridge I cook each (week)day has seeds in it, which I like and is why I buy it. As I ate my breakfast this morning I listened to an app called “pray as you go”. What I most like about this app is the questions that make me stop and think and help me go deeper into the Word of God and explore my own relationship with God, myself and the world.

Today’s reading was Jesus’ parable of the Sower from Mark 4:1-9 It’s quite familiar to me, but as so often happens I saw and understood the passage in a new way today. One of the questions was

Did you notice how many different kinds of seeds Jesus mentions?

Erm no. Now you mention it, I didn’t. I only noticed the different kinds of environment the seeds fell into. I didn’t hear Jesus say the seeds were different, but -equally importantly- I didn’t hear him say they were the same either.

Can you imagine what they might represent?

I have always assumed all the seeds were all the same, but understanding them as different kinds of seeds (as well as different kinds of environments) is helpful in reminding me that even within a species we are all different – one kind of snowy owl has subtle (and not so subtle) differences from another snowy owl. Some are visible – size, markings, scars from injuries etc. The physical differences between species of owl  are more obvious, but there are enough similarities for us to recognise them as owls – even if their habits and environments differ as well. There are, however, also less visible differences too – personalities, preferences, passions. These only become more obvious when a particular owl is observed for a longer period of time and then compared to another individual.

It’s probably even more true of humans. We all look different and have different personalities, giftings, dreams and ambitions. There is much to unite us as human beings. But for each of us to develop to our God-given potential those differences are needed and being in the right, nurturing environment is really important.

What does that look, sound and feel like for us and our power animals  – I wonder.

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Owl Encounters

Most owls do not migrate but they can be nomadic in searching for the best food source

This owl headed north this weekend, not really in search of a better food source -though the food and drink was plentiful and good! – but more with the intention of meeting with fellow owls, not for a parliamentary session, but just to see and be seen, to listen and be heard, to be and enjoy being.

I was not disappointed. Quite the contrary, the weekend was over far too quickly for this small owl, and the long drive south brought me home again all too soon.

Since then, however, I’ve encountered owls in different places.


Linda spent long nights composing Beatrice’s adventures, obsessing over the details. She tried to convince herself they had the makings of an enviable childhood. Beatrice drinking from fountains and bathing in lakes, calling owls at night and chasing butterflies during the day, hiding from snooping dogs, raiding squirrel stashes, spying on crows, making speeches to the tallest trees, weaving weeds through her hair, drawing pictures on the sidewalks with burned wood, being a princess, reading street signs like they were adventure stories, laughing with ducks who told her jokes, digging through garbage, watching, from a tree, happy families picnicking across a great lawn, and waiting for the moments when she might slip unnoticed among them as though she belonged to them and steal their lunches, then, more.
(Diane Cook Man V. Nature ‘Somebody’s Baby)*

I love the descriptions here, and am also left wondering whether I encountered owls so often earlier … and was simply not tuned in, or are they appearing more often at this junction of my life? I don’t know – and it probably doesn’t really matter. We are, after all, blind until our eyes are opened and then we see!

*This fantastic collection of short stories was shortlisted for The Guardian First Book Prize in 2015. It’s reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s short stories, which unlike his novels for children, often have either a macabre vibe or there’s a twist in the tale which really makes you think.

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preparing to fly … north!

Most owls do not migrate but they can be nomadic in searching for the best food source

I like the idea of being nomadic – there’s something so freeing about it (at least in theory).
Of course I’ve never truly been nomadic, although as a child people used to say I had ‘itchy feet’ because of my burning desire to go to new places and have different experiences. That hasn’t changed. I’m still without a good smart phone because as soon as I have saved almost enough money for one (I’d like to buy a fairphone) I blow the money on another ticket!

I never really been one for putting down roots even where I live – at least not deeply. A friend of mine was heart-broken a few years ago when she had to leave her home. They had built their house at exactly the same time as we had – almost 20 years ago – and as she spoke and as I listened I recognised the reality that the ‘flitting’ was very much harder for her than it would be for me.

Most owls do not migrate, but they can be nomadic – on the move, in search of food, shelter and perhaps other things. Who knows?

This weekend this owl is on the move – a trip up north for a new experience (the opera- Puccini’s La Boheme!) and a chance to catch up with some good friends en route and at the performance too. I’ve loved the preparation – the planning it, and also the anticipation. And now the adventure begins …

Most owls do not migrate. But some species – notably the lovely fascinating snowy owl – have regular ‘irruptions’.

An irruption is a dramatic, irregular migration of large numbers of a species to areas where they aren’t typically found, possibly at a great distance from their normal ranges. … Mostly the irruptions for the snowy owl and other species are because their food supply is scarce and they are at risk of starvation.  However,

unduly harsh cold or severe weather that may force birds to find more temperate wintering grounds

This owl can relate to that!

Posted in 2016 the owl