Date: 1/4/21 2:27 pm
From: Joseph Neal <joeneal...>
Subject: EPIPHANY WITH SHORT-EARED OWLS
Strange and fascinating to me how some things reach back into far shadowy depths of our convoluted gray matter. Such was the case last Saturday during the CBC at The Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northeastern Oklahoma, about a 3-hour drive from Fayetteville.
Late afternoon was flooded with abundant winter sunshine. Short-eared Owls – 6? 8? 10? – were working fields all around us. We heard them calling. We saw them fly in twos, twisting and seeming to touch talons. We saw them suddenly drop into tall grass, then out again. I have spent so many hours in the comfort of my home imagining something like this I could hardly breathe while it was happening. First you see no owls, then they own the low sky over the grass. It was the tall grass come alive to possibility. Like being let in on a secret.
It reminded me of seeing a big Greater Prairie-Chicken lek in late April 2006, during one of my early trips to the Preserve. First you see no chickens, then they come to a dancing ground. They drum the ground with their sturdy feet. In their dancing and singing make Earth move.
Standing out on the road watching last Saturday, I remembered many years ago, as a college freshman, in a second semester English course, where we required to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. What stuck with me was Joyce’s use of epiphany – a sudden realization of inner truth – as a way of structuring the book.
Epiphany happens in ecology and birding, too. Out on Osage County, Oklahoma, Road 4201, with a bunch of Short-eared Owls. A sudden realization of inner truth. The center.


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