PictureA snowy owl in flight. By Bert de Tilly, via Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Have you ever seen a Snowy Owl in the wild?  If you have you will never forget it.

There was an early January report of a sighting of a Snowy Owl at Albany International  Airport.  If you were lucky, you could see it from Sicker Road which runs parallel to one of the landing strips at the airport.

Hearing about a sighting is one thing.  Being in the right place at the right time and finding it yourself is another.   The thought of seeing a Snowy Owl sent me out hoping to be successful.

Driving down Sicker Road I keep glancing at the runway field on my left.  Seeing nothing I began to think that maybe I would come up empty.  Then things changed.  What is that on the ground?  Seen from a distance it could be a small tree stump or an owl.  Is a Snowy Owl?  Looking through the binoculars confirms that is a Snowy Owl standing in the grass.  Finding it is a delight.  Sitting in the car looking at the Snowy through the binoculars only a hundred and fifty feet away is sheer delight!  The bird decides that it is time to move to a different hunting spot, this one seeming to be unproductive.  Without warning it straightens up, unfolds it great wings, and with powerful, strong flaps lifts itself up and into flight.

Keeping my eye on it as it flies a goodly distance, I see it land on a post that it can use as a observation point as it looks for mice in the grass.  I watch for a time, again the bird decides to go to another spot.  Again it settles on a sign post to use as an observation point.  After a while it decides to call it a day and fly off to roost, its large wings lifting it up with power and majesty.

Snowy Owls live and breed in the Tundra.

In the winter some may migrate south seeking food.  Since airports with their great expanse of land covered with snow are somewhat similar to the Tundra, they prove to be suitable habitat.

A Snowy Owl is a very large bird.  They are two feet in length and their wing span ranges up to nearly six feet.  It is an impressive bird and at close range even more so.  Seeing those great wings unfold and the bird lifting its large body with strong, powerful wing beats is a thing of beauty and of awe.

It is this sheer sense of awe that will send one out into the cold to see a Snowy.

On occasion I have stood in the cold and the wind because it is worth it.  However this time I was lucky because the sighting could be viewed from the warmth of my car.  Seeing this great bird I felt a wave of awe and delight which moved into thanksgiving.  It is good to be alive surrounded by the wonder and glory of creation which draws us into its beauty and mystery and points us to the Creator.

Awe and Delight Feeds Us.

It is what we need, especially in this time of senseless deconstruction, when much of what we know and love is in great danger, not only our way of life and what we stand for, but the earth itself.  How does one find the strength to continue to do the work of caring for the earth when political and capitalist forces are so focused on the next election and the next quarter’s profit, when money and power are the gods being served, in total disregard to God who is the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  How does one find the strength and the will to go on?  How does one keep from being beaten down and totally defeated?

“Go watch the Snowy Owls.”  Be filled with Awe, Delight and Thanksgiving.

In the midst of awe and delight we are fed, but more than that, there is also a strange sense of the Spirit speaking through creation saying, “See all of this? I love all I have made.  When you work for the well being of creation, you honor me and the earth I have made.”

In the midst of awe and delight I am fed, but more than that, I feel a determination deep inside me.  It is does not originate just from within me.  It is stronger than that.  The feeling is so deep and pervasive that it seems to come from beyond me.  It is the spirit speaking through creation.  All of this is born out of Awe, Delight and Thanksgiving and a power of the Spirit that leads us into the work of caring for the earth.  It is a strong determination born out of the Spirit itself “to keep on keeping on.”

What are we to do?  How do we sustain ourselves?

I think we need to put ourselves in those places that Fredrick Buechner calls, “Thin Places,” those places where the Spirit can work and break though so we are spoken to, strengthened, and called to do what needs to be done.

How do we sustain ourselves?

“Go watch the Snowy Owls.”  Go to whatever “thin place” that might call you, or in which you might find yourself, and be filled with Awe, and Delight.  Then leave that place in Thanksgiving and go to work knowing that both the memory and the Spirit go with you.

About Rev. Larry Deyss, HR

Larry Deyss is Pastor Emeritus of the Delmar Presbyterian Church where he served for 30 years, a past moderator of Albany Presbytery and currently a member of the Peacemaking Task Force with a focus on environmental issues. He and his wife live in Delmar.

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