Oscar and Olivia

Oscar and Olivia

Oscar was a bachelor. He worked at night and he slept all day. He lived in one of the older neighborhoods of South Austin and he kept quiet and mostly to himself. He came and went late at night, and his neighbors barely noticed him at all. If he was awake during the day, he remained almost invisible, never leaving his home unless there was some great need.

When Keith and Suzanne moved in to the house next door, they were not aware of Oscar at all. Like so many of the neighborhood’s new residents, Keith and Suzanne focused their attention on remodeling and updating their new home. I had begun to work with them to develop a plan for a beautiful new garden to surround the house. There were many existing trees, and we planned to create shady seating areas and walkways winding through colorful flowering perennial borders. The property was not particularly large, but I felt it had plenty of potential.

IMG_1328There was one problem that created a dilemma for my new clients. The home did not have a garage to park in, street parking was not allowed, and a thicket of tall bamboo that had been growing there for many years was growing along the driveway. Because of the overgrowth, there wasn’t much room to get out of the cars parked on the drive. I knew from experience that bamboo is almost impossible to remove once it is established. The only obvious choice in this situation would have been to expand the driveway by cutting all of the bamboo down and pouring more concrete. Something inside me resisted this choice; it seemed like there had to be another way.

One day, as I was walking the property and preparing to begin the project, I looked up into the bamboo and saw something I had never seen before. In the daylight, I was face-to-face with a beautiful screech owl. Oscar looked at me directly and did not rustle a feather. In that moment, I felt a deep sense of peace wash over me. Oscar was not afraid, Oscar was home. But he was home in a way I don’t think I have ever experienced before. Although he was quite obviously out in the open and exposed, he was also hidden and safe. His ability to be at one with his environment was so complete, he had become part of it. This was his home, and all of the commotion next door did not disturb him in the least.

As the project began, I checked to see that Oscar was still at home in the bamboo thicket first thing each morning. Every day, there he was. Sometimes he would be sleeping, but most days he would open his eyes and look directly at me. After the first week, I made up my mind to tell my clients that Oscar was there and explain that we needed to protect his home. They were actually thrilled and agreed that we could find another way to expand the driveway on the other side. We worked through most of December to create a beautiful garden without disturbing Oscar.

It’s true that owls can see in the dark, but Oscar had taught me something in broad daylight. What we might believe to be an inconvenience could mean the world to someone else. The Spirit totem of owl teaches us to see beyond the veil of illusion and helps us to see what is hidden. The spirit of the owl reminds us that appearances can be deceiving and explains that we should look deeper to not only find our own truth, but be respectful of what is true for others.

Three months later, I returned to Keith and Suzanne’s in the spring to find that Oscar had a lovely new companion. We named her Olivia. I learned that screech owls attract their mates with the offer of an attractive home, and Olivia must have found Oscar’s bamboo forest delightful. Oscar was no longer a bachelor.

from my new book, The Seventh Season: Wisdom from the Garden of Life

remember, goodness grows,


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