I exhale with a force to distract the train of my thoughts, now running wild. Here I am trying to wind down from the day’s work. Sitting on the porch is usually an easy way to unwind, but not today with an emptiness in my heart. Something is missing. My inner yearning draws my thoughts towards music, as it often does. I just want to mess around with my guitar, but my inner angst doesn’t allow me the courtesy.
You have to be something special to be an artist. Someone with a lifeline of skills, practice, drive, or even natural talent. Sure, you like the guitar, but what makes you think you have what it takes to do anything about it?
I sigh with sadness this time. I feel defeated. If taking action takes this much internal effort, is it worth the effort at all? I stand up and move, hoping to leave my thoughts behind. Something about quiet summer nights like this one make me feel alive. I am activated, free, and open to possibilities. A light breeze kisses my face and this time I sigh with relief. My heart is whole when my mind is quiet.
Tonight, the sunset on the horizon is splashed with a thousand hues. The dreaminess is divine. Not every day looks like this one. This feels special, and the silence ringing in my ears makes me want to reach out for something unknown. I can feel the future calling. But it doesn’t call long before thoughts creep in and I get in my own way.
I walk back inside to look at the guitar gathering dust in the corner. It’s just an object, but its power shows up in my life, time and time again. My guitar alchemizes social anxiety into magical connections. It clears my body of raw emotions that would otherwise distract my attention. When all else fails and the energy of “me” dims, the vibration of the strings is my lifeline back to reality. I know I have a special relationship with this instrument that calls me back from the void. It’s a light in the darkness, and I’m not sure what to do with it. Maybe if I stare at it, the answer will come…
The loud cry makes me jump and whip around.
Through the kitchen door I see the silhouette of an owl staring back at me from the short adobe wall outside. My heart starts to race with excitement. An animal! An owl! An omen?
“AAAHH!” I mimic back at the raptor, surprised to hear an owl make this kind of sound in the first place.
A pregnant pause lingers between us as the owl bobs its head from side to side. The sky’s colors turn a dark hue of red and the soft sounds of crickets fade in. My breathing deepens and I do my best to ground so as not to scare the creature away.
“AAAHH!” it screams once more before taking flight with a few thundering flaps of a colossal wingspan. An enormous shadow of a majestic bird against a quickly dimming horizon...it almost feels familiar.
The moment settles into my body. I feel so incredibly received. Is it a coincidence that I was thinking about who I am in relation to who I want to be and an owl shows up? But then what kind of owl screams AH instead of WHO. This deviation from expectation feels notable. Maybe the answer will come through as I play guitar.
Picking up the instrument feels nostalgic, invigorating, and soothing all at once. Blowing the dust off, I can hear the strings lightly ringing with the movement of my breath. The twang twang twang sounds make my spine shiver as I tune the strings to the notes. The resonance softly floats through the air when it reaches the right amount of tautness. A wire strung across a piece of wood vibrating through time and space. Something simple and profound. Emotions translated through life incarnate. "Too dramatic?" I think to myself, "All art is bullshit."
The sound of an F chord breaks the silence, every string buzzing with color, tone and harmony. Then a woody vibrato makes me cringe. My barre chords are sloppy. How basic is that?
A sudden, momentous expanse of wings startles me and I fall back onto my ass with a howl. The guitar jumps out of my hands, grit scraping the wood on its backside as it skids across the floor. I realize that the owl is not only back, but flew in through the open kitchen door, narrowly avoiding my face. Eyes wide and mouth gaping, I gawk at a moony-faced, dark-eyed barn owl now sizing me up from on top of the refrigerator. Silence rests between us. It cocks its head 90 degrees to one side as if to say, “Now what?” and I feel knots in my stomach clench.
“AHH!” I scream at the bird in the same tone as earlier. “You really scared me.”
The owl continues to focus its gaze directly at me, wings tucked in with deceiving slenderness.
“You’re much bigger than you look,” I say, now committed to talking to the owl, “Why are you even in here? You’ve got a big, wide world out there to spread your wings and fly, and here you are…”
The owl bobbed its head playfully, which makes me laugh out loud.
“AHH!” The owl screams again.
“AHH!” I scream back. We continue on like this for a while before it bursts into a full cackle that ends in a “who who who whoooo” sound.
“What in the holy creature of the night,” I think to myself.
“Whoo who who,” I reply.
The owl continues to look at me with such intensity that I start to feel uncomfortable. What is it going to do next? It cackles again in a way that sounds strangely like a cartoon laugh. It makes me giggle.
“Who who whoo,” it hoots again.
“You just want to play,” I say and it bobs its head. It really seems to understand what I’m saying. The realizations start to sink in with humility and humor. “So here you fly into this space to play. I was only scared because your sudden movements coming from the darkness threw me off of my footing.”
The owl looks back at me, adjusting the way its feet are perched on the fridge. It stands so tall.
“And here you look so small but when you fly, your wings create a powerful presence.”
The owl blinks and I continue, “And you don’t need to know where you’re going in the darkness, because you can see and hear well enough to navigate your way through.”
The knots in my stomach unravel and melt into the floor. The owl chirps an adorable screech.
“Who who who,” I say to the owl, then it screeches once more and soars through the kitchen door, back out into the night.
“What what what,” I think to myself. “What just happened? Did that just happen? Did an owl show me who I want to be? Did an owl tell me there’s no reason to be afraid because I’ll find my way through? No. You’re just being dramatic again. Maybe life isn’t so complex.”
I walk over to the guitar and dust it off with gusto, making sure to get all the grit from its slide across the floor. I’m glad the guitar is okay. This time I’ll forget the barre chord. This time, I’m in the mood to play.