a wise, surprise visitor


a barred owl, rescued from a zoo
a startled response almost purring
~the bard~
Where the bee sucks, there suck I;
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.

~William Shakespeare, The Tempest
(Ariel act V, i)
My job is never boring! It’s an unusual not-for-profit store where teachers, parents, students, artists, and inventors find inexpensive materials for their creative projects. Our customers are sometimes as quirky as our stock, but this one is certainly the most surprising. The fellow wearing the gaunlet where the owl is perched works for the Organization for Bat Conservation in the Bat Zone at Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. They have over 150 bats from around the world, including vampire bats. They also have other nocturnal animals including a two-toed sloth, owls, and flying squirrels.The group offers a variety of live animal programs, and supports research for the mysterious deaths of bats on the East Coast.

Our human friend shops whenever he is in our area, and I’ve talked to him about bats in the past. But things were slow, so we all got into a conversation with him. He asked if we’d like to see this or that kind of bat, and I was very interested, but when he mentioned he had an owl I got excited. I like bats, but owls!! Owls are fascinating!

Just see how dignified and self possessed he looks in the large picture above. I have read that humans, especially females, are attracted to faces with large eyes—they remind us of babies. (or movie stars!)

Meanwhile, L. went to the stockroom to let D. know there was excitement up front. D. came blustering up behind us, asking why he should look at a towel. (is that a guy-thing? or is it that we are all over 50—not paying attention?) The owl was startled and flapped his wings as wide as he could. He turned his head 135° one way then 135° the other to see who was behind him.

In the last picture, the owl is closing his eyes being soothed by stroking. He is almost purring! In many ways, owls remind me of pussy cats…

Then the next day…
…a fellow came in looking for material to make boomerangs—testing them in the store. I even threw a few…


6 thoughts on “a wise, surprise visitor

  1. Beautiful pictures and story Tess! I want to give him a kiss on the beak and a scratch behind the “ears” too. We have some pretty cute bats in Australia. Lots of little microbats which are easiest to see when you go camping they love to swoop the campfire hawking for moths and other tiny beasts. Our Botanical Gardens was over run a few years ago with flying foxes – some of the most endearing looking bats – they roosted in a fern gully and used one particular tree as a creche leaving the babies there at night while they scoured Melbourne for fruits and blossoms – (finding quite a feast in our garden.) We don’t get too many close encounters with owls in the city though – but we do from time to time have nightjars, in particular the tawny frogmouth – almost as gorgeous as your owl.
    Merry Christmas Tess and thank-you for your splendid blog!
    Carolyn x

    • Oh Carolyn! What an interesting comment: I just spent an hour looking at pictures of flying foxes and microbats ( http://www.bats.org.au/?page_id=20 ). Mostly the sites I found were from rescue groups. There were some very sad stories, but it is a wonder that such animals exist in the same world as us, but with such a foreign perception of it that we could be living on different planets.

      I suppose one could say that of any animal, but just imagine what it must be like to fly and to “see” sound!

      Thinking about amazing animals, Australia certainly has its share:
      I had to see what a tawny frogmouth nightjar looks like. It’s such a great name. They do look like owls! Elegant. I found some pictures of them in their frozen camouflage as a branch mode, hiding in plain sight.

      Happy Christmas Carolyn


  2. Interesting (?) detail: Johnson was involved with the King’s Men, the company Willy belonged to; this “Where the bee sucks” is one of the genuine surviving Shakespeare songs – written for the original staging of the Tempest. (This performance not merry enough, though.)

    PS Note my new email address – old one not valid anymore.

    And (just in case I’m not around the next few days) I wish this year will be a merrier one for you!

    • Interesting (yes.) Found the song because I recently read the poem somewhere (can’t think where?), and happened to recall it included both bat and owl. As ever, I can resist neither serendipity nor a bad pun.

      You are right, the song should be merrier.

      Oddly enough, Ariel appears again in my life—if you see this before the BBC takes it down, it might interest?
      (The Late Mr. Shakespeare, Robert Nye)

      Here is the Robert Johnson I’m more familiar with (though it took me quite a while to find the song—it too could be merrier):

      Thank you for the new year’s greeting. I return it to you double…

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