This post is dedicated to my owl loving friend Denise. Special thanks go to Michael for translating one of my stories again!
The Mouse and the Snowy Owl
“So you were almost eaten by that brown owl, right?” croaked the old owl to the little fieldmouse, who sat next to her on a branch high up in a spruce tree. They were silhouetted in the light of the full winter’s moon. The mouse looked up to the owl: “And now I won’t be eaten?”
“What do you think, little mouse?” asked the old owl.
“I don’t think so,” answered the mouse.
The owl laughed a deep throaty laugh. “So, so. That’s what you think – and why not?”
“You’d have eaten me long ago.”
The owl’s eyes twinkled. “Maybe I’ll change my mind. How about that?”
The mouse went silent. They looked at one another in silence. The owl was the first to look away. She looked at the snow covered landscape. Then she sighed, “Don’t worry, little mouse, I won’t eat you.”
Since the owl didn’t add anything to that sentence, the mouse asked, in a small voice, “Why then did you save me from the brown owl?”
“Why …” echoed the owl, “Why, why, why …” After another pause she answered, “Why, little mouse, don’t you fear me, eh? Why didn’t you run from me. Answer me that!”
The mouse looked embarrassed. “I don’t know … ”
The owl asked, “Do you know who I am?”
The mouse looked at the owl’s white plumage. “A snowy owl?”
The owl’s yellow eyes flashed. “A snowy owl? How many snowy owls have you seen already?”
“Besides you … none,” answered the mouse.
“Correct,” said the owl satisfied. “I’m the only one. You see, snowy owls don’t usually live in the woods. Not enough room. Too small. Too warm. Too little freedom. Snowy owls live far up North, not here where the summer’s too green.”
“Then what are you doing here?” asked the mouse.
“Well, that’s the question,” said the owl, nodding. As she nodded her eyes closed into slits.
“She’s not going to fall asleep?” thought the mouse.
But then the owl answered, “Long ago I wasn’t an owl. I was a furry little creature and ran around the forest floor on four legs. One night, as I ran through the woods, a lurking fox suddenly blocked my path. I stared at him, but didn’t run away. I thought ‘This is it! My time has come’ and then I ran towards him. Just then a shadow swooshed down towards us and grabbed me in its talons and carried me up to a treetop. It was a great snowy owl.”
The mouse opened its eyes wide, “Wow! Like with me just now?”
The owl looked deep into the mouse’s eyes. The mouse went silent again. The owl continued. “We sat – as you and I are now – high up on a branch and looked down into the valley below. The big white owl said to me, ‘You’re brave, but are you brave enough to be the guardian spirit of these woods?”
The old owl interrupted her story at this point. The mouse stared at her because nothing else was forthcoming. “What did you say?”
“When you look at me what do you think I said?” whispered the owl into the mouse’s ear. “My question to you is – what’s your answer?”
“Yes. Are you brave enough to be the guardian spirit of this forest?”
“But I’m so small! How can I protect anyone?”
The owl laughed and sang quietly, “The top can’t stay top while the bottom is lifting
The night has twelve hours and then..” she paused, “In each of us there is a light that is greater than our appearance. Do you really think I am just this small owl you see before you?”
“I don’t find you small,” whispered the mouse. “You’re big and beautiful.”
“Just like you, little mouse, just like you. But enough! The day’s about to begin. Run, little mouse, and take leave of your life.”
The mouse was startled and looked up at the owl. She saw the owl turning to ice from her talons to her crown. She heard the owl’s voice again, “Run, little sister, run!”
And so the mouse ran down the tree and ran as fast as she could and as she ran she slowly lost the ground beneath her feet and she grew and grew until her great wings bore her up into the sky, which was slowly turning a rosy red from the dawn. She saw, in the far far distance, forests, a green river, and a city with many towers.
High up, on the treetop of the spruce, the old owl melted under the same sunbeams until nothing remained but some drops of water, which the shadows of the next cloud froze into little icicles.