The Owl and The Girl
By Valerie L. Egar
An owl, named Ilfa, lived in an abandoned hunting lodge deep in the forest. Years of neglect created a hole in the roof large enough for Ilfa to find her way into the house. She made her home in what was once a bedroom, roosting on a cupboard next to a broken bed. Mice fled the straw mattress when they saw her! Except for a quiet spider who patrolled the floorboards, Ilfa had the room to herself.
Ilfa hunted by starlight, flying over silver rivers. Except for a few summer days when a gentle breeze through the treetops invited her to sleep outside, she took shelter in her tiny room during the day, dreaming owl dreams. (And what might an owl dream? Ilfa dreamed of teaching philosophy at a university, creating a museum-worthy collage with her cast off feathers, and, on hot days, swimming in the cool lake like a duck.)
One day, Ilfa came home as the sun spread its first rays through the trees. It was autumn and a few of the trees had already lost their leaves. The overgrown grass and fern around the lodge had yellowed. Ilfa slipped through the roof hole, ready for a good day’s sleep.
Ilfa was taken aback to find her room occupied. A girl lay on the dirty straw mattress, crying. Hair disheveled, face streaked with tears, she was a pitiful sight. Still, Ilfa felt annoyed. Bad enough to share the lodge with someone, but the girl might have chosen a different room! Ilfa flapped her enormous wings and screeched, hoping to frighten the girl away.
“Oh!” The girl looked at Ilfa. “You’re beautiful!”
“Not easily frightened,” Ilfa thought. “She’s brave.” Ilfa knew the girl had walked through the forest at night by herself to find the lodge and recognized that was much harder than flying over the forest to hunt. Ilsa also saw that sorrow encircled the girl like a shroud, cold and dark. She sighed and closed her eyes. Maybe the girl would be gone when she awoke.
When Ilfa opened her eyes, the sky above was vivid orange from the setting sun. The bed was empty. She twisted her head around to listen. Whoosh. Whoosh. The girl was sweeping. The sound came closer and the door opened.
“You’re awake.” The girl took a few chestnuts from her pocket and placed them in front of Ilfa. “These are for you.”
Ilfa screeched and flew out of the roof hole. “Silly girl doesn’t know owls don’t eat chestnuts!” But, Ilfa was still touched that the girl thought of her. “The girl is kind.”
When Ilfa arrived home early the next morning, the girl was asleep. The room was clean, the bed reassembled. The girl had replaced the mattress’ dirty straw with dried sweet grass from the yard. The windows looked clean. “So she’s staying,” Ilfa thought. She stared at the sleeping girl for a long time and saw how sadness weighed her down. Her feet were heavy and couldn’t dance. Her voice was tight and couldn’t sing. Her eyes didn’t sparkle. Ilfa felt sad for the girl and was determined to help.
One evening, when Ilfa was still full from the previous evening’s hunt, she stayed home, roosting on the cupboard. She watched the girl climb into bed and stare at the stars through the hole in the roof.
“Stars, stars, I wish, I wish…..” The girl started to cry.
Ilfa swooped out of the room and flew high as the stars. “What are you going to do about the girl?” she demanded.
“We cannot change the cause of her sorrow,” they said. “But we will help.” They shone their light brightly on the sleeping girl.
When she awoke in the morning, the girl wrote a short poem. She smiled a tiny smile. The next day, she painted a picture. The day after, she wrote a song.
After that, she began writing stories. Every experience she had went into her creations. As she painted, wrote and sang, she unraveled the sorrow that had wrapped it around herself so tightly and transformed it into something beautiful and true.
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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published October 14, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME)
Valerie L. Egar is the author of Snickertales. She loves animals, nature and all her Snickertales fans. She lives in Maine, USA. You can follow her on FACEBOOK by going to her page, Valerie L. Egar.