Barred Owl

The Gift: A Personal Story

By Joy Klumpp, Certified Texas Master Naturalist

September 4th is the anniversary of my mom’s death. It is not the anniversary per se that is difficult for me to deal with; it’s every single day of the year that I feel her absence. So while the date is a milestone, it is just another day that I live my life without my mom. Every day feels much smaller because my mother is no longer in my life.  

While my mom was sick, she recommended a book to me: “Wesley the Owl” by Stacie O'Brien. I devoured it. It pulled at my heart strings and the very core of who I have always felt I am, or perhaps always desired to be. I feel awe when I read stories that are beyond comprehension—when humans and animals sync in such a way that I am left wondering how anyone could question the existence of God. I'm amazed at how a lucky few can unite with the spirits of animals and have a connection beyond anything humankind can understand.

This book sparked my passion for owls. I started learning what I could about the elusive birds. I listened to their calls for hours, learning how to distinguish the different species within the Texas area. I focused on the Barred Owl. It has an amazing call. I don’t know why I am so fascinated by this particular owl, because so many others are equally amazing, but there is just something in the way the Barred Owl communicates that stirs something inside me.

I had only seen one owl in the wild in my life: a Western Screech-Owl which just happened to be hanging out in my backyard one day. I’ve heard screech-owls and the Great Horned Owl, but I don’t get Barred Owls in my area of Houston. My encounters with owls for the most part have been auditory.

I felt pretty disappointed that I had yet to see a Great Horned Owl or Barred Owl. I feel silly for admitting this, but I remember praying that I would get to see one. It wasn’t one of those prayers I was thoroughly invested in. It was just a little conversation between me and God where I just expressed my desire to get to see one sometime.  It seems so silly and trivial, but maybe it was because I knew my mom’s anniversary was approaching and I thought that perhaps seeing one would reunite me with my mom in some small way since, she was instrumental in fueling the fire in me for owls.

I planned a kayaking trip with a friend for September 4th, 2016 because I didn’t want to sit around the house. We had been kayaking only for a few hours when it began to rain. It was a serene, calming rain, and it occurred for what seemed like only a few moments.  Then, as the rain began to dissipate, I heard it. It felt like I had tuned in to the middle of a conversation. I heard the final sentence draw to a close and caught the Barred Owl's last remark. And that is when I set eyes on the most beautiful bird ever. It perched there, its eyes locked on to me, motionless. I almost cried.

I realize some people will read this and say, “This woman is off her rocker!” But sometimes we are given experiences in life when we most need them. And I was given a gift.

Joy Klump (Barred Owl).jpg