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Walking down the hill into that quiet valley, past some madrones and bay, I enter the redwoods. As I walk through the small patch of trees…
Walking down the hill into that quiet valley, past some madrones and bay, I enter the redwoods. As I walk through the small patch of trees heading back to my bike and home, I see a woman, her legs out like a sumo wrestler as she takes a photo of something in the redwoods just beside the trail. She looks up to me and smiles. I wave and don’t say anything, moving to a patch of ground free of poison oak off the trail so she can pass me.
“It’s okay,” she says, not moving, but looking now back to the trees, “You can look.” She points to the redwoods.
I am a little confused on what she is talking about. But I’m curious and I walk up beside her to look. And, bending down I saw what she was trying to photograph. there were two spotted owls on a thin redwood branch, one incessantly grooming itself. They must’ve been twenty to thirty yards away. I kept kneeling, looking at them sitting there in the middle of this hot spring day.
I noticed that she was wearing a long-sleeve white t-shirt rolled up to her forearms. The shirt had a large Champion logo running vertically down the right side. She had a round and sweet face, a short haircut, and large, kind eyes. She must’ve been in her fifties, and very short.
I told her thank you for sharing the spotted owls with me. She said of course.
She told me that in her neighborhood there used to be a lot of owls. Her and her husband used to practice their barn and great-horned (which she kept calling long-horned) owl calls. She herself was obsessed with owls and would collect photos and little figurines of the birds because she loved them so much. She told me her husband knew a lot about the natural world. He taught her so much about wildlife. She told me he was gifted with knowing the landscape in that way. But, since he died, she said she had stopped calling to the owls, almost as though she was saying that her love for the owls was similar to the love of her husband. The depth of the love must have been something similar. But recently, she said, she was trying to call out to the owls in her neighborhood. And today, she told me, as she was walking up this trail, she was praying. “Oh lord,” she said, “give me something lucky,” and just as she said this, she looked to her left and there were the spotted owls.
I told her thank you for sharing her story with me. Not being someone with any inclination toward religion, I admire those that find that spiritual presence which they follow seeming to answer them. Like this woman, alone on a trail, possibly thinking of her husband, praying for something good, and looking over to see these owls that almost are an extension of her own being.
I said it was really nice to meet here, and I asked for her name. She said Dulce, which seemed so obvious now after hearing it.
As I continued my way down the hill, I kept thinking about Dulce and those owls. Dulce who lost her husband, who has God, who loves owls, who keeps smiling, and has begun hooting again with the owls. The owls, so calm, unbothered by us, perhaps knowing we won’t hurt them. And even today, I still think of Dulce. She shared with me her story and gave me proof, though unsaid, that we can move along through death and troubled times, and still find the beauty in what we once loved.