In hollowed oak – a short owlish meditation on mothering

Even now, I look for owls every time I pass a hollowed oak, hoping to find one nested in the trunk, or snug between forked branches. Tawny, snowy or barn…its specific patternings are insignificant, what matters is that it’s there. Like the gold-threaded bird on Mum’s dresser – our blood and sweat embroidered into the silk of quiet feather stitch, framed and protected by glass. The needlecraft badge it earned for my Guide blanket folded away decades ago, plastic-wrapped or boxed somewhere in the attic. My clay-feet china owl, complete with cap and gown, was fired as a basic beginner’s mould, then painted to celebrate my graduation – and the months of homesick wisdoms it took to get me there. Don’t give up, don’t give up: its bright eyes urge still, standing in as make-shift mother.      Only now I’m a mum too, do I understand more fully what motherhood and family entails: a love that’s feather-gentle but comes with fierce beak and sometimes has to bear its responsibilities with claws.    The silvered owl lamp my sons gave me casts colours through feathered shadow; I try to reflect this back even bolder. My one and only tattoo marks my sister’s visit home ten years after emigrating to California. Wide-eyed avian elegance guards my back from its perch on a strong branch of leaves like upside-down tears, with a startling moon inked behind. The crystal keyring owl she bought me flies across a jar of stars, suspended as a happy charm. Another present, a pearl-eyed metal bird with bronze horns, hangs on the lounge door like a lucky horseshoe re-forged in owl shape… Maybe we all need a little mothering now and then, the sort that’s also a kind of sisterhood in owlish forms: invisible wings folded in quietness or outstretched ready. Always protecting, looking over, hoping… like a wise bird with moon-eyes holding bright and steady against the longest nights, reducing oceanic years and miles to soft feathers of shared warmth. These eyes light me through the dark.

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