“It’s not being tame that allows you to survive and prosper in an urban environment,” According to Kevin McGowan, a bird biologist in the university of Cornell’s ornithology lab “It’s being not scared and aware.”
You can read more of the story of the snowy owl caught up in its unnatural habitat for yourself, but that quote got me thinking.
I don’t know about you – and I certainly can’t and won’t even try to speak for you – but as I read McGowan’s word ‘tame’ I think of Aslan in CS Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles. Lewis – speaking through Mr. Beaver – uses the word ‘safe’ almost as a synonym, albeit in a very different context.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Mrs. Beaver had already spoken out, but was unheard. Her husband had to reiterate the message so that it would be heard, and the implications could begin to sink in. It was not the first telling and it would not be the final reminder either.
Safe, tame, is not part of the story.
For me this is a wonderfully stark reminder that Jesus is King, and the King is good, and that that goodness manifests as love. It’s a life-enhancing reminder that love triumphs over evil; that love wins, love always wins.
I almost certainly ought to re-read the Narnia Chronicles this year. Perhaps there’s the nudge of a New Year’s Resolution in that – but I’m reminded that in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the wardrobe, the winter wonderland that lies behind it, the cold icy blanket of time that never quite reaches Christmas – and then miraculously does – not even the restoration that takes place, none of these are the story – they are merely part of the story.
In a very different time and place Lucy goes on to receive a new revelation. It isn’t Narnia she needs or even actually longs for, but Aslan Himself. And in that moment there is a promise.
“I am [there in that other place],” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
So what does this have to do with owls – snowy or otherwise – and their natural and unnatural habitats, you might ask. It’s a good question. And as I’ve said before often good questions are more important than even the very best of answers!
This is the beginning of a tale of an owl. The very early beginnings. I don’t know yet how the tale will develop or end, merely that it has begun. You are invited – but not obliged – to journey with me.
In many cultures much importance and significance is given to the process of deciding on the name of a new born. The child’s gender, their position (rank) in their extended family, the day of the week, month and season in which their birth occurred might also figure in the decision, as might their ancestors, and the heroes of faith that have gone before them. For some too attributes that the parents might wish for their offspring might also be an important consideration. Sometimes our earthly name might seem to have happened by completely by chance, a frivolous encounter with a heroine in a novel or a place someone once visited. I have learned to love my own name – though for years I loathed it and truly wished to have been called something – anything – else – but I also take comfort in the truth that I have a name known only to God and one day I will be known by that.
We are however more – much more – than the name our parents chose for us. Their choice of name for us does not have the power to define who we are or who we will become. And our parents don’t have that power either. They can – and so often do – raise us, and nurture us, and give us both a foundation and a direction – but at some point we are called to stand on our own feet, on a foundation that we ourselves test for strength. Will it support us, or will it crack – will I stand or will I fall? Will I have to swim, wade, clamber to surer and more secure ground and start again? This is the reality for all of us. We grow, we develop, we take on characteristics and as we mature we also learn to let go of some of the traits that we learn for ourselves are less good, less giving, less loving.
The owl is this year part of my journey of discovery …. The tale has begun.