(See Wordlessness Part I: "Making the Sky Out of Sticks.")
I sit down on the arrow-shaped boulder that I have called my altar for more than ten years and it is dry and I realize that all this sun means that this is the rare February day when I can lie down and look up into the treetops while they are sill bare, festooned only with moss and lichen and what birds there may be and so I do. I spread out my tapestry backpack on the boulder and Sunshine the dog lays down on the abutting sandbar. I look up into the trees.
There is almost nothing I like more than looking up into trees.
I begin to bring my attention to my breath, observing the in and out. In and out.
In and out.
That branch is dead up there. It would make good firewood. I think I’ll have a fire tonight! When my sweetheart comes over, we can enjoy it together… Is it going to make the house smoky? Am I allowed to have fire in these days of global warming?
Breath in, breath out. In, out.
A ball of lichen on a branch. Breath out, breath in. A Seagull, skinny white wings and the long wedge-shaped tail.
The sound of the waterfall. The sun is making a star-shaped pattern through the branches. The light lines the branches of the big leaf maple.
Breath in. Breath out.
Breath in. Breath out.
The slight movement of the tips of the trees in the breeze and the slow undulation of that movement down the branches to the trunk. Breath in, breath out.
A seagull again, now to the south, higher still.
Breath in, breath out.
Wait, is that a seagull? It is pure white. It's wings are too thick.
It's tail is very short, Almost no longer than the wings.
Holy shit. Is that? No, it’ can’t be. HOLY SHIT. HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTT!!!!!
THAT’S A SNOWY OWL!!!
Wordlessness. She drifts above me, so slow, so far above. She turns, white, turns.
Breath in. Breath out. For a long time.
My timer goes off. I rise and wonder and say nothing, even in my head. I walk up the slope, up the hill to my home.
Where I begin to wonder?
Was it a snowy owl?
I look up the wingspan to see if it is close to seagulls... look up the shape. .. I know that one was sighted in Seattle in December; I check to see if any have been sighted in the last 30 days.
(The answers? Close: 48” vs. 52”. Yes, that shape. No, none in the last 30 days.)
I think it was. I do. But, do you see what happened just now? With measurement came tiny mind, the end of wordlessness. Trying to “make the sky with sticks.”
But was it? I believe it was. And i see that that belief: “snowy owl” is caught up in words. Which I love. And also, I know that they serve when they walk me down the path to the boulder, where I lay on my back and breathe and know the movement of the trees and the feathers and the way that in that moment the breath stopped and stopped and stopped before it started again.