Witness by Sara Wright



It was dark

when I first heard Her

whooing overhead

bearing witness,

ushering in

the First of the

Harvest Moons.

The seasonal wheel turning towards

ripe fruit and swelling seeds.

Summer’s Bounty.

This goddess

is cloaked

in feathery mole brown splendor

a Sphinx flying

through the night.

S/he heralds the

Gift of Water

answering earnest prayers…

As ‘Changing Woman’ she brings rain

to soften cracked desert ground…


Hidden in a tangle of branches

Owl observes my approach…

When I pass

under the Cottonwood tree

she takes flight in silence.

lands on a snag –

luminous eyes glowing.

Fiery embers

sweeten the night.

Her beneficent

Presence floods me

with wonder –

Oh, I know Her well.

Love seeps through

a body punctured by holes.

Seen at last by my Beloved

I give thanks for Owl

whooo calls my name.

Working notes:

Last fall on the night of my birthday I was serenaded by three Great Horned owls conversing outside my window. In the thirty years I had lived in my cabin these owls had never visited me before. The hair stood up on my arms – an omen, I was sure. The owls felt like an embodiment of my mother for reasons I will explain in a moment. Every night after my birthday the owls whooed outside my window until I left Maine for New Mexico six weeks later.

The night after I arrived great horned owls began hooting. I couldn’t escape the irrational thought that the owls had followed me here. I felt confused because although I loved hearing them, each time I did I was flooded by conflicting thoughts about my mother, and what this omen might portend…

When I was a child I adored my mother – the first woman I ever loved…Unfortunately, my mother didn’t seem to have much use for her daughter, though I did everything I could to please her. A gifted visual artist, my mother loved great horned owls and often drew them. I imitated her, drawing stylized images but I also feared them. The rational explanation for this feeling is, of course, that I feared my mother and equally feared her abandonment of me, so owls became associated with both a fear of women and death. This love and fear of my mother – a distant, cool, unattainable woman dominated my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. It wasn’t until mid-life that I began to separate from her emotionally. It was only then that I began to see her. I recognized that her inability to see me as a person separate from herself ran both ways with disastrous results for both of us. Betrayal characterized our relationship. We gradually became more estranged, and for the last twelve years of her life she refused to see me at all. When she died, initially, all I felt was relief.

It was during mid-life and long before my mother’s death that owls first came into my life. One barred owl flew into the house through a window. Others serenaded me at night. A Snowy owl flew head on almost hitting my windshield. Saw whet owls peered at me during the day and the nights were punctuated by Barred owls whooing at night. I found dead owls on the road, collected their feathers, attended a weekend with a well known Lakota -Souix Medicine Woman who wouldn’t allow me near her because I had “Owl Medicine,” and for these Indigenous peoples, the presence of the owl portended certain death. Because I still associated all owls with my mother these occurrences left me with feelings of dread. However, during the next 25 years a great horned owl never appeared to me, and that was a huge relief.

Up until 11 months ago.

When a convocation of three Great Horned owls surrounded my house and started singing the night of my birthday I sensed that I was crossing a threshold and that my mother was on the other side. Their night calls thrilled me even as I struggled to deal with my fright. The owls kept up their symphony until I left Maine for New Mexico six weeks later. Amazingly, I had only been in Abiquiu one day when Great Horned owls started whooing in the cottonwood forest in the predawn hours. I couldn’t escape the uncanny feeling that the owls and maybe my mother had followed me here…

Because I have had intimate relationships with animals all my life I befriended the owls, taking deep pleasure out of their calls, even as I attempted to deal with my fears and reflected over what their continued presence might mean.

I arrived in Abiquiu in a destabilized condition not having any idea what the winter would bring, whether I would make my home here, unsure of whether to sell my house. I was moving into the last years of my life and I wanted them to count. When I look back now it is easy to see that I was in crisis but at the time the obvious escaped me. As it turned out the winter months were very difficult with me wondering if I had made a terrible mistake.

I was walking on air.

At dawn or at night owls continued to serenade me throughout the winter and spring.

In late May just before moving into my present home I found one owl feather outside of the east window. The owl’s feather graced the first Nicho in the house, followed by a second discovered and given to me by the builder a day or so later.

The first night I spent here the owls sang from the cottonwoods. A few days later I found and added three more owl feathers to the Nicho.

All summer I have been graced by owl presence, especially during the full moons when owls have let me see them in the predawn mornings.

On the morning of September 1st almost one year after hearing them for the first time, a hooting owl awakened me… Then for two weeks – Silence. I couldn’t help wondering if this was the end of the owl serenade that had begun almost one year ago…I experienced a powerful sense of loss.

Two nights ago I had a dream about being abandoned, a painful reoccurring theme. When I awakened I heard an owl calling insistently from the cottonwood forest. Feeling a profound sense of relief I rushed outside to listen. I was astonished and delighted when the persistent calls were answered by another adult owl who then flew across the field to join her mate. Now I listened to a conversation occurring between the two that I had never heard before. This murmuring between the two was so intimate I almost felt like I was intruding as I stood under the cottonwood listening for about 15 minutes. When the sounds ceased I looked up to see the two hidden by cottonwood leaves sitting very close together. Joy engulfed me. They were back! Yesterday morning three owls were hooting, the male sat in the cottonwood, the female and the young one hooted from the next field further away.

Just as I opened the door to take a twilight walk that night I heard two owls conversing nearby, found two owl feathers while walking, and then glimpsed another owl flying over my head to land in a juniper high on the mesa!

Reflecting upon this unusual clump of owl sightings after not hearing them for two weeks I thought again about my mother and owls, acknowledging how much I missed them both. Was it possible that as I approach old age my mother taking the form of an owl was coming to witness and support me, in a way my mother was never able to do during her life?

I think the answer is yes and that that the broken thread between a mother and her daughter is being re-woven by the owls that sing to me at night.



Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Northern New Mexico.


Categories: animals, Family, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Awakenings, Foremothers, General

Tags: , , , , ,

13 replies

  1. Beautiful. Recently I drew the Goddess amulet of the owl before and after the fall tour in Crete. I was disappointed because the amulet does not even look much like an owl. But it is a strong message to trust intuition and the dark and not to overthink a particular relationship.


    • Carol, as you know women and owls have been associated for a very very long time. There is, I think something very mysterious about this relationship between women, owls, the night, wisdom – all of it. Animals appear to embody certain characteristics and behavior that also reflects human behavior…this is where we see interconnectedness in action.

      If you drew the owl, you called her to you – and that is what is important…. another way of saying this would be to say that you entered an Owl Woman’s field or attractor site.


  2. Yes, I think the answer is yes! Thank you for sharing this beauty!


  3. Wonderful story, so revealing and revelatory. Brava!

    My mother was distant, too. It wasn’t until after her death (in 1965 at age 50) that I began to understand what an unhappy woman she was, probably all her life. Thanks for your poem and your story.


  4. Barbara, that’s the problem isn’t it? We have to get beyond our own skins to see that our mothers struggled and suffered just as we have… I wish that I could have learned this lesson much much earlier in my life, but I literally couldn’t see through the damage…


  5. Thanks, Sara, for sharing this very moving memory regards the owls and your mom. It could be that our subconscious might easily interpret imagery in nature as a means to resolve a distance with someone we love. In Zen poetry, nature is the hub of inspiration and also the heart of wisdom and compassion.

    Just to mention the cottonwood tree. It was much loved by the great American painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) and imaged in her paintings. And if you type in her name along with “cottonwood” as a search at Google, wow, some gorgeous images by O’Keeffe arrive.


  6. Every once in a while there is an owl who “whoo”s to me from the wooded areas. I feel thrilled by the sound, and honored to hear it. Next time I will make a note of the date.
    I’m another with a rocky past in relationship with my mother. When she died, I wasn’t there but knew it had happened and felt strongly that she was healed of the pain she endured. I often remember now, the wisdom and strength she passed on to me that became clearer as I grew older. Maybe owl is reminding me again of that.
    Thank you for your insights Sara.


  7. The link to your poem & story were sent to me by a friend. I was so, so deeply touched by your words, by the images they evoked, & by the message that the friend sent with the gift.

    I had never heard of the Owl referred to as Changing Woman, but it seems right to me.

    It all evoked smiles & cries in me. It reminded me of both of the Minerva’s Owl card that I bought in Bath, & favorite book that I read long ago to my daughter—Owl Moon. It also brought to mind the stuffed owl gave my daughter. And, of course, my Mother became more present than ever.

    I could go on & on but I’ll use this opportunity to say thanks. What a blessing!


  8. Oh, how lovely, but just remember that I am only the vehicle through which the owl came through…These birds are very mysterious and seem to come to those who need them. Again, I have seen this in my counseling practice and in my own and friends lives – quite amazing really – reminding us forcibly of our connection to other species.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I do not know how long your mother will be able to come to you this way, but I hope her attempts to repent, apologize, and provide healing will last forever. I have found that my relationship with my emotionally abusive father has been much, much better since his death in April. I’m frankly stunned by how much healing has occurred, and how much he helps me now, when I let him. I think our parents become the perfect, divine versions of themselves after they die, and they become our beloved ancestors, who are our strongest connection with the divine, if we let them. Every blessing on your journey, and thank you for this beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree – after death healing can occur – and it’s sort of miraculous that it can – don’t you think? During their lives my parents and I did not have healthy relationships – too much abuse – but my father started coming to me as a dove after his sudden death in 1993 – and since then there has been much healing – with both my parents dead and each appearing as a particular bird I now feel more supported by my parents than I did during their lives – a gift , really. I am so glad this is happening for you ! Many Blessings – Sara


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