Owl & Delight

Owl & Delight,  © Jessica Sanborn, 2021

This guy comes with a story. It’s a fun one.

Last fall, a friend and I were walking through woods and fields when we spotted a beautiful tiger-striped feather laying on the path. I bent down to catch a better glimpse. I’d never seen a feather like it. 

“I think it’s an owl feather,” my friend said.

I loved it. I wanted to keep it.

“Do you want it?” I asked.

She didn’t.

As I reached down and picked it up, imagine Wisdom flicking me on the head. (But gently and with great love.) “Jess, what are you going to do with this? Put it on your desk where only you can see it? Leave it be. Let the next person to come across it share your delight.”  

Ohhhh. That made sense. 

Letting the feather go, I took a picture instead. 

Don’t hoard your delight. Share it. 

This nudge seemed important, and I tucked it away. I shared pictures of my owl feather at my daughter’s soccer game that evening. 

And then life continued, as life does. I was in the middle of teaching weekly classes. We had sports after school. Dinners to make. Laundry to fold. Wake up. Get stuff done. Go to bed. Repeat.

Later that week, I was up late reading in our living room when I heard a lonely Whoooo-whoo-whooo from outside. In the 12 years we have lived in our house, this was only the second time I’ve heard an owl. Grinning wide, I opened the windows so I could hear better. The owl’s cry cut through the stillness every few minutes with haunting beauty. I went to bed with a heart full of gratitude and wonder.

And the next day, I woke up. Got stuff done. And went to bed. I did ponder the recent owl activity in my life. I wondered if I was being invited to pay attention.

As if to underline and highlight my question about paying attention to the owls, just a few days later, my husband and I heard two hoot owls calling back and forth as we walked through the woods. (An auditory first for me.) Somebody’s got a sense of humor. Or a great sense of patience because they know that I’m slow on the uptake sometimes.

Just in case I needed more help with paying attention, five days later, Joy Harjo’s words in her book Poet Warrior were the exclamation mark: “Birds are messengers. The owl gives very distinct messages often about transformation in our lives. 

Friends, I know that this could all be coincidence. But when I’ve gone over 40-some years rarely encountering owls, I’m going to pay attention when owls are hooting and dropping feathers and leaving me messages all in a few weeks’ time. Isn’t life More when we believe that Someone is trying to get our attention? When owls (or anything, really) can be messengers? When there are important things for us to learn? When we get invitation after invitation to pause. To ask questions. To remember. To listen. To answer. To participate.

Part of my process for spending time with the owl was to make a collage. For me, collage is an act of remembering. I get to relive an important moment and engage it in a new way. When I collage, I feel like I am collaborating with Spirit. And I end up with a visual reminder, something to return to. 

I need reminders. I tend to forget about something if I don’t see it.

The message I returned to, am returning to, and need regular reminding of, centers on delight. It is an invitation to come out of hiding. (I’m a hider.) To share delight. To share myself.

Ross Gay notes in The Book of Delights that “delight grows–much like love and joy–when I share it.” Another reminder.

I’m still slow on the uptake. I’m still finding it hard to come out of hiding. To share myself. To share my words. To share my art. But I will try.

A collaged owl sits above my desk now. He delights me. And he reminds me to share.


Owl & Delight is available in an 8 x 10 inch art print for $25. The image is about 5 x7 inches.

I also have 4 x 6 cards available for each of these images.They are available in packs of 5 for $10. You can choose which cards you would like in each pack. If you are interested in prints or cards, feel free to let me know.

8 x 10 inch art print