It was approaching dusk on a cold winters day at the monastery. The sky was pale grey and there was a stillness to the air. We were on a meditation retreat and the community were gathering for the four o’clock meditation sitting. I was just approaching the house when I spotted a very large bird sitting on a branch just at the edge of the lawn. I approached. Much to my amazement the bird was a very large owl, by far the biggest I had ever seen and as grey as the sky. It was looking towards me with a piercing yet open gaze. It blinked and I froze on the spot. Owls had always been special to me ever since my father had read Winnie the Pooh to me as a very young boy. To me they had become a symbol of wisdom. The atmosphere on this winter’s afternoon was such that this great bird seemed to embody this quality like never before – my mind brightened and fell completely silent. I felt somehow at one with nature and with this place. In the moment the scene appeared to me as though it were a lucid dream, luminous and still yet lacking none of its sense of reality, my hands were cold.
Anagārika Mischa was approaching along the path towards me, I beckoned to him to slow down, pointing as the owl retreated to a tree a little further back. I gasped at its size and at its slow, silent flight. As I spread mettā to the great bird, it turned its head towards me and flew a little closer. By this time I was completely enchanted. I felt as though I was immersed in a fairy tale. I would not have been surprised if the bird had spoken. I turned to Mischa,
“I think something special must have happened,” I said, much to my own surprise. The words just seeming to tumble out of my mouth on their own.
The owl took flight, passing behind the house and into the forest, out of sight.
I repeated to Mischa,
“I think something special must have happened. I never say such things but there is something auspicious about this.”
I returned to my hut and did not join the meditation. I stared through the window at the glorious, crimson sunset. I couldn’t stop wondering what might have happened.
Later that evening I received a mail from a very generous supporter. He had decided to sponsor a sala to be built on the hill behind the house. I was stunned, all I could think of was the owl. I realised it had flown right in the direction of our proposed sala site. I felt a little overwhelmed. I could not resist writing back immediately,
“Did anything happen at your end around 4 p.m.?”
“That’s about when I made the decision,” he replied.
So it seems as though that winter day something special had happened. I hope one day someone will give a very wise Dhamma talk in the new sala, worthy of such a message and such a messenger if that is what it was. Then it will seem as though the Dhamma had arrived in Norway in a very special way, in a way perhaps acknowledged somehow by nature itself and perhaps we will carve an image of the owl to adorn the new sala in the new style of ‘Norse Theravada’. Or perhaps we will do that anyway.
I offer this for your reflection