Last night our monastery was blessed to have an extra-special visitor keep vigil with us. Like many blessings, this one was at first misunderstood. It all began at around 10:45PM, almost two hours after we had retired to our cells. Our visitor chose this...delightful...hour to announce his presence. Woken from their slumber with sleep still clinging to their eyes...and apparently also their ears...the nuns were perplexed as to who this guest might be. One sister thought it was just the radiator 'talking' (we have old steam radiators that make a lot of racket when the boiler is on...thankfully they aren't ordinarily turned on during the night). Another sister unhappily concluded it was the sister in the next cell snoring! Myself? I immediately thought it was the neighbordhood dog (not our dog of course!) yipping like it sometimes does on cold nights. I grumpily wished it would go away. How often we misunderstand blessings from God and instead of embracing and welcoming them we grumble over them and wish they would go away! Some sisters, whose cells were furthest from our visitor, slept right through the visit. Finally my brain woke up a little bit and I realized it was an owl! And not just any owl, but a Great Horned Owl! I rushed to my window and there he was, sitting on a horizontal branch framed in the V of another tree. Our visitor kept his vigil with us at least from 10:45PM until 1AM when I last heard him as I woke up to go to my hour of vigil praying the rosary before the Blessed Sacrament.
Some interesting facts about this special visitor:
Great Horned Owls feed on over 250 species including Red-tail Hawks, Swans, small dogs, and cats! They can lift prey that is 2 or 3 times heavier than themselves. Their territory is about 1 sq mile (and the call our visitor was giving was a territorial call so we hope he will stick around!).
Come morning we were all very excited to share our experiences of waking up to the beautiful who-hu-who whoo whooing of the Owl. For one sister it had been twenty years since she had heard a Great Horned Owl. Many others had never heard it before. It was a very special treat for all of us...but one we hope won't be waking us up every night for the next few months!