The Way of the Owl: Loving with Your Whole Heart

Dearest friends, last night I finished reading the New York Times Bestseller, Wesley the Owl:  The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl.  And, um…yes, you need to read it!  I won’t ruin the ending, but I did bawl my eyes out to a ridiculous degree and thought my heart would explode with both sadness and wonder.  I have been fascinated by owls ever since I visited an owl sanctuary in Costa Rica years ago, but who knew that they had such human-like behaviors and emotions?!  Every chapter of this book engages you fully in the true life story of little Wesley the Barn owl who has nerve damage in his wing and no hope of really flying, and the sweet girl named Stacey who takes him under her wing (pun intended).  As an animal researcher at Caltech, Stacey also documents Wesley’s life as part of scientific research.  The book gives a glimpse inside the prestigious research community, a kind of scientific Hogwarts where resident owls sometimes flew freely from office to office and eccentric, brilliant scientists were extraordinarily committed to studying and helping animals.  All of them were changed by the animals they loved.  Stacey and Wesley’s bond deepened as she discovered Wesley’s individual personality, subtle emotions, and playfulness.  He also has a fiercely loyal and protective nature.  I learned tons I never knew before about the humanly emotional side of owls as well as other animals: even snake’s y’all!  Who knew they needed reptilian prozac?!  (I still don’t dig snakes though.  I’ll stick with our family’s little dog and kitty, haha.)  I marveled, laughed and cried through the whole book.  Stacey and Wesley are deeply bonded at even a spiritual level.  They are together for almost 20 years, and end up literally saving each other’s lives at different times.  One of my favorite parts is when, as Wesley gets old, he falls asleep each night with his wings wrapped around Stacy in a hug.

I think the most valuable thing I took away from this story, was the unbelievable beauty and power of loving each other fully and with total loyalty:  with our whole hearts.  As well as the tremendous courage this takes because of the sacrifice, pain and heartbreak that goes hand in hand with living and loving wholeheartedly.  We should strive to have love in our hearts for all beings, but there will be a kind of love and loyalty that will only feel right to commit to with certain souls in our lives.  Animals are obviously a safer bet, but when it comes to people we should be careful and wise (as the wise old owl) who we share that kind of love, loyalty and trust with.  It should be those whom we can safely trust with our hearts.  But even then, we may lose these people at some point for whatever reason.  Often the fear of the pain and anguish that comes from this kind of loss, or just from being hurt in general, keeps us from living and loving fully.  Even if we don’t realize it, it is often this fear that causes us to sabotage our own chances at real love and joy in life.  I’ll be really honest, I have done this myself.  This need to self sabotage can be even worse if you’ve experienced trauma or abuse in past relationships.  You may block opportunities for fully experiencing love, growth and change.  I vow today to be done with such self sabatoge!  I vow to open my heart to loving fully when I do choose to love.  I want to follow in the fiercely loyal and dedicated Way of the Owl.  Stacey writes at the end of the book:  “We choose whether or not to take the pain with the joy.  I know people who have decided it’s too hard and have given up living with animals, but to me it’s all worth it.  My sister and I had made a vow when I was eight year old.  We would live our lives not by staying in the shallow, safer waters, but by wading as deep into the river of life as possible, no matter how dangerous the current.  We knew we had only one chance at this life and we decided to make every moment matter…neither of us regrets living this way.”

On that last note, here’s a poem I wrote this winter that goes right along with all of this:

The Plunge:

The opposite of love, some say,
Is indifference,
Not hate.
At least passion, one way or the other,
Makes you fully alive
And you don’t have to wonder
If a human heart beats there,
As you might about the ambivalent kind
Who are never sure.
For at least a feeling can become a thing
Compared with the lack thereof.
Even anger can harbor seeds of love, just beneath
It’s the detached ones that hurt you the most
The ones who hold back:
Less human than ghost.
And by chasing the dead,
In your own tragic way,
You plan your own death.
In longing for the ghosts of something past,
Of something future,
Of things that won’t last,
You refuse to live fully, to live right now,
To give your whole heart;
And so, you lose out.
Running from love, you deepen the void,
And suffer more from this
Than the pain you tried to avoid.
Yet the moment you learn, then nothing is lost;
Living far from home
Is no longer worth the cost.
So you hold your breath and take the great plunge
Into your heart
And into the ones
Who will dive deep with you into a love that flows free;
While the one’s you let go of stay there on the shore
Still only dipping their toes in the sea.

P.s.  I hope you also get to read the book and start learning the beautiful Way of the Owl!

“The crowing characteristic of love is always loyalty.” -Jeffrey R. Holland

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