Owl, Santa Barbara, California, July 1, 1966.
white owl with a heart-shaped face flew out of the woods and
circled over our heads. (The painting of a Barn Owl, at left,
is from the
Sibley Guide to Birds.)
the evening that Michael and I were moving into a rustic cabin
in the mountains that border Santa Barbara. I suppose the
owl came to see who we were or what was happening to its lonely
refuge. Its visit at that moment on the mountain seemed like
on the mountain for four years, caretakers on an island of
private land surrounded by National Forest. There were five
miles of steep, rutted dirt road between us and town, utilities,
or neighbors. We kept warm with a wood stove, read at night
by kerosene lantern, got our water from an ice-cold spring
in the canyon. We learned to grow vegetables, kept a goat
and made cheese, discovered self reliance.
we swam in a natural, stream-fed pond while violet-green Swallows
swooped by us, touching the surface for a drink of water or
a tiny insect as they passed. In winter the clouds slid down
from the mountain top and curled their mist around our little
house like a soft blanket, and we were happy hermits there
for a season of our youth that has remained an almost sacred
memory through all the years since.
saw a Barn Owl in the clearing around the cabin again, but
we often encountered it in the woods, watching us, white and
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The painting of a barn owl of at top left is
from the monumental new field guide, The
Sibley Guide to Birds.