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.
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