Wednesday, June 9, 2010

To That Which you Tame, You Owe Your Life

What does this mean to me now? Now that Wesley has gone, it still resonates with me because by knowing Wesley so intimately, I gained knowledge that does not absolve me from action. I know how emotional owls are, and how vulnerable, and how smart and intuitive and precious they really are. So, if I see barn owls in danger - ANY barn owls, I must act. Because by giving me his love and the deep knowledge of the soul of the barn owl, he has made me responsible not just for him, but for all his wild cousins. My knowledge, now, is my burden - but this burden is a joyful one - and I must speak for these creatures. I must try to help them when I see them in trouble, because perhaps others might not have had the privilege of knowing their soul, or even their behavior and needs. So I have to speak out when I see their needs being ignored and when I see them being exploited for man's benefit, but to their own tragic demise.

This is why I'm so passionate about the Barn Owl Alliance. I must be their voice as much as possible, and now many have joined me by falling in love with the owls they're coming to understand, too. Through the miracle of webcams and streaming, many people have watched the intimate lives and the emotional lives of Barn Owls, and have realized that each individual barn owl is precious, has his/her own personality and quirks, and is deeply loveable and passionate and affectionate and even caring of each other. Many of us have now been touched by the indelible spirit of the Barn Owl, and we are now all burdened with our understanding, to help them.

This is what drives me, makes me passionate, keeps me going. This is what the Barn Owl Alliance is - a group of people who have come to understand these precious creatures with whom we share this earth, and who have come to care deeply for the welfare of these individuals, and who are willing to speak for them and help them overcome the obstacles that mankind has unknowningly put in their way.

Education is the key. Once we understand a creature, and come to love it, then we can learn how to help it.

By the way, we need a word in the English language for a nongendered being, whether human or animal. We are reduced to having to say he/she, him/her, his/her when we are talking about non gender specific people or animals. I HATE saying "it" when referring to any animal. An animal is not an "it". An animal is an individual with feelings, emotions, drama, concerns, passion - an animal is him/her, he/she, ....

I'm amazed that we have never come up with a word for this. We try to get around it by saying "their", "them", but it doesn't work gramatically.

Perhaps when the Barn Owl Alliance has made the entire world safe for Barn Owls and educated the very last person, and has eliminated rodent poisons, and has established branching systems for all owl boxes, we can figure out a word for the English Language and lobby for its inclusion in our lexicon. But until then, we have much work to do.


PS: Last night I heard a northern pygmy owl. Wow! This morning I woke up to the familiar crunching footsteps of deer and the sound of them munching on the delicate spring greens below my window. I got up and watched them from out on the balcony. One of the deer looked up at me, right into my eyes, and held my gaze. She had such wild eyes that I was startled. Gentle, but totally those of a wild creature. They did not run, but continued to nibble their way through the forest.

If Cait wants to see if I'm awake in the night (we're both notorious insomniacs sometimes), she hoots out her window, which is one floor below mine. If I leap out of bed and rush to my window to hoot back, she laughs and says, "I thought you might be awake." I guess she knows me pretty well! hah.


wess_liana said...

Stacey... you never fail to touch me with your writing. I know that when you first met Wes you had no idea how much that little guy would affect the entire rest of your life. It just convinces me that there's definitely a higher plan for our lives if we're brave enough to follow our instincts and take a leap of faith. See... now your beautiful Wesley is inspiring, through you, a whole group of people from all across the country and different walks of lives to come together and save the lives of future generations of barn owls. I think that's a pretty marvelous legacy!

And... I laughed out loud at the image of you and Cait hooting back and forth to each other in the middle of the night... What a hoot! (forgive me....LOL... I couldn't stop myself)

RainbowGirl said...

Bless you, Stacey! This was truly beautiful. I truly believe that Wesley came into your life for a purpose. By raising him and learning about his wild brethren, and then sharing him with the world (which we are grateful for!), it has led you to this path. I am so grateful that you are being a voice for the safety and preservation of barn owls. Wesley was meant to have your love and protection for a reason. And this is it! Incredibly proud of what you have achieved and keep achieving.

renard said...

Hi, Stacey… I have a YouTube video I think you'll be interested in. It was just put up 6-8-10. It shows the 5th of 7 owlets trying to make his first flight from an owl box and the difficulties he encounters. Then it shows him trying to get back into the box. He can't fly high enough to make it to the roof and apparently doesn't yet have the skills to fly to the hole and get in. It does show him trying to climb the pole, which he does fairly well. But it's just too long for an owlet with not enough strength and experience. I don't think the pole is metal, just not enough roughness for him to get a secure grip.

I thought this video might help you and your Alliance to show some of the problems you've been discussing. I don't know where the box is located, but maybe you can contact the owner and get permission to use it.

And Tom, this isn't intended in any way as a criticism of you. I am thrilled to see you adding your expertise to the BOA!

Hope this helps in some way, Stacey!

Here is the URL broken up in case it doesn't come through above --

Jackie (renard)

Dadu said...

Thanks for the inspiration; it keeps us dedicated to the tasks ahead.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dadu. I loved your post all the way through. : )

Anonymous said...

Everyone, if you want to scare away crows, CLAP YOUR HANDS! I'm serious. The louder you can clap your hands (and shout) the more effective it will be. I think they think it's gunshots. Works every time for me.

Joy W said...

While "they/their" is not grammatically correct for a non-gendered being, it is widely accepted as the most practical route. I can't abide he/she. Another solution is to use either pronoun & stick with it within a single piece of writing.

Julie Yowell said...

Stacey, I see that you haven't posted here for a while. Wondering if you are ok? I recently attended a writer's conference and your book was recommended to me since I'm writing a memoir of a similar relationship with a rattlesnake. Not quite a snugly a story similar in many ways. (particularly the psychic connection)
I just finished your book and although the end broke my heart I enjoyed it so much. Would love to correspond with you. Please respond!

Julie Yowell said...

Hi there. Posted on your blog but no response. Wondering if you ever check in here. What happened to you, Stacey? Rsvp please.

Stacey O'Brien said...

Hi Julie,
I haven't disappeared, but I've been trying to resolve a problem with blogspot - somehow it got messed up so that I don't own the blog. So I can't write on the blog itself! All I can do is write in the comments section. I'm about to give up and just move to a new blog site. I may even try to copy this blog and comments onto the new blog site, then carry on from there. It really bothers me that I may lost track of people by doing that, but I must be losing track of people anyway, because who would think of looking in the comment section for my blogs? I've gone round and round with trying to get this resolved for so long that I think it's not resolvable... Thank you for asking, and for your concern! i miss interacting with everyone! I do have a facebook page called Wesley the Owl. There seem to be a few of them, but the one I actually go on has the most followers or friends or whatever, or likes, whatever it's called. i think right now there are about 3,550. Also, it says "book" when you search and see the list of Wesley the Owl facebook pages.

About the owl alliance, it evolved into Charlotte Loomis taking the ball and running with it. She has been doing research on owl boxes and setups for several years now, some of it in conjunction with a university, and she has consulted many groups like the Barn Owl trust in England, etc. She has come up with a set of recommendations for barn owl boxes, and does have a design, too, if someone wants it. But the main things that are important are that the entrance to the box needs to be at least 8 inches above the floor, so that babies don't accidentally get swept out when parents fly in and out - we did see this while I was at Caltech. It makes sense. In the most natural setting - a hollow tree - the babies are down inside and aren't going to come out until they're strong enough to climb up to the entrance. They won't accidentally get kicked out. And putting the box in the shadow of and among the branches of a tree is best case scenario so that they can branch - they can't fledge to the ground safely in most cases - and for shade in hot summers. There are other recommendations such as using oil to deter bees from setting up camp in the box, but one would have to ask Charlotte where to put the oil. She is on facebook and comments on the facebook Wesley the Owl site regularly. It works well for me not to be trying to do the barn owl alliance work AND write AND speak at conferences and events, etc. Also, by me not having a box or advocating a particular box, I'm not competing with any other boxes or stores that sell boxes. My role is clearly defined - to write and educate and get people excited about animals and their sentience and intelligence so that people will themselves become more interested and involved in conservation of the ecosystems in which we and the animals live, and to encourage people to think about and care about the animals with whom we share the earth. If I had a mission statement, it would be something like that. But I write because I truly love the animals so much and really can't help myself! I must share the wonder and mystery of it all with others, and they share it back with me. Nothing makes me happier than that!

Stacey O'Brien said...

To Julie again - WOW a rattlesnake! That is different! My dad caught a rattlesnake when he was a kid and kept it in his room without his parents knowing. Well, he got careless with it and it bit him on the hand. He STILL didn't tell his parents, being a teenage boy who thought he was invincible, and went to bed. The next morning he woke up w/ his hand and arm something like 3x normal size and he was seeing double, so he had to go to the hospital. He got gangrene in the shoulder or arm and they considered amputating it but decided to try this hydrosurge/oxygen therapy which worked. Now...this is the story he tells and his mother doesn't deny it. But what I can't figure out is how he recovered so fully that he late became an alternate on the Olympic team in gymnastics. I'm thinking maybe they weren't really going to have to amputate but they wanted to scare a teenage boy into not doing anything like that again! It didn't put him off of snakes, though. He spent a lot of time hanging around the Zoo in the herpetology department and learned as much as he could about reptiles. He retained that knowledge to the end of his life, and he would take us to the zoo and tell us about the lives and behaviors of all the different snakes there. I have had a number of pet snakes and lizards as an adult.

Julie Yowell said...

Glad you are still around! Too I far out of town for reliable internet and clumsy on my phone. Will post more when I can get to a computer in town. My best!

Julie Yowell said...

Can't find Wesley the owl or your name on Facebook. There's a Wesley the owl but he looks to be a milk chocolate owl who works as a janitor at the Whitehouse! Too funny. Think your Dad's rattler story is amazing!

Julie Yowell said...

Hi Stacey, still haven't found you or Wesley on Facebook. heck. Hope you are well. Hey, what're you up to these days? What kind of work are you doing and are you raising any unusual pets? Did you ever read "The Daily Coyote"? I love stories about unusual animal associations. I'm at my sister's house and brought her a copy of your book. I've been raving about it to her and she wants to read it! Take care and let me know when you get your new blog set up!