Sunday, June 05, 2011

Of Baby Owls, Ancient Indians, and A Nightfall Walk

We think all that matters is today.  The immediate.   Now.  But sometimes, just going on a walk helps us to get perspective on the broad arch of time, and how we fit into that. 

This is a nighttime view of Eddie Park in South Pasadena, just a block and a half from where we live.  Last week, I took Our dog Ella on a walk past Eddie Park, just after dusk, as the western skyline darkened.

Something wonderful and mysterious happened, and I have been thinking about it on and off ever since.

The Little Owl
It was a quiet night, no one was out, all the families and kids who frequent the sideways and parks this time of year were elsewhere.  As Ella and I approached Eddie park in the gathering dusk, we both heard a rather soft peeping sound that drew our attention to the center of the open grassy field.  And there, about 40 feet away on the lawn of the park was a small, peeping creature about the size of a little football; faintly visible in the park streetlight.  A baby barn owl, right there in the middle of the city.  A little visitor from nature, peeping in the grass.  And Ella seemed to know not to yank the leash and chase this baby.  As we stood there, surprised and staring, the baby owl suddenly took graceful flight to a tree above and ahead of us.  As she gently swooped above us, we could tell this was not a bird new to the concept of flight, this was a little owl confident of her flying skills.

I stood still and wondered how she ended up in this park, on this night, at just the time we came walking by.  I, interrupted on my walk, consumed in the thoughts of my workday and family, and Ella, sniffing for something interesting in the grass.  Why did we meet like this, in this simply beautiful weekday evening calm.  And where would that baby owl go from there?  What would the rest of her night be like, where would she fly, what might she see, quietly gliding in the growing dark over the homes in our neighborhood, looking into the lighted windows of our homes?

The Indians
Several weeks ago, our local paper revealed a fascinating glimpse into the long-ago history of our neighborhood.  Recently, a woman gardening in her back yard, just two blocks from our home, discovered a human skull buried in the shallow soil of her garden.  The Coroner was called, research was done on the remains, and it was determined that this was very likely part of the remains of a Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe member.  Just inches from the bottom side of the grass.  Right here, blocks from our home.  This Indian man or woman, there in the shallow soil, resting quietly for hundreds of years.  What had our neighborhood been like back then, in 1500 or 1700, long before streets and sidewalks and running water and homes and parks?  Before the Civil War, the Great Depression, and the Great Wars?  Did you walk on the land that would become our street and our yard?  What did you know of the greater world?

As Ella and I continued on our evening walk, I thought of that little owl and the buried Indian.  And then, it struck me that the real original occupants of the place we call home were......owls and Indians.  For hundreds, if not thousands of years.  Long before I, or my family, or any of our friends even existed.  Deep into history.

I live in a world of present tense.  Most of the time, I have little interest in the past, or in pondering my place in the grand scheme of things.  Maybe life is just a series of random events or loosely connected occurrences. 

But perhaps that walk in the park, the finding of the Tongva in the garden soil, and those moments with the baby owl are not random at all.  Maybe these things are all orchestrated, are part of a deep mystery we will never fully understand.  A final resting place in a suburban garden, a little owl drifting over our homes in the deep of night, and a walk in the dark by a middle-aged man.  All connected in some way?  I wonder.

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