Sometimes there are moments. Moments when you pause and open your eyes. Then you see. You see something magnificent. You see something that changes you. And the light in which you look at the world is more revealing and truer than it ever was before.
I had one such moment at the zoo.
She walked toward me confidently, slowly, with an enormous owl perched upon her gloved hand. "May I take some pictures?" I asked, as she began to pass "Yes, he's not camera shy" she smiled and began telling me about Forrest the owl.
Her monologue began in a rehearsed manner, quoting facts and figures. Naming locations and regions I would never go in my lifetime. I couldn't take the pictures fast enough as she held the magnificent owl before me. Click, click, click. He was a stunning creature, like nothing I'd ever seen. A group of young boys came up and asked questions about owls. I continued to click. The lighting was perfect, the range was incredible. Click, click, click. "What does he eat? How large is his wing span?" More facts, more figures, information about owls spouted forth from this woman like a talking encyclopedia. Click, click, click. The owl gazed back and forth turning his head in an impressive manner. Click, click, click. "How long will he live?" "How fast can he fly" "How well does he see?" "How sharp are his talons?" Click. Click. Click. The information zoomed around my camera as I zoomed in and out on each detail of this stunning bird.
Then the questions died down. The inquisitive boys ran off to take a gander at the tiger.
Silence calmed my clicking camera.
I stared for the first time deep into the eyes of the owl. Not through the screen of my little digital camera, I looked at him-with nothing but air between me and the large noble eyes of a creature so grand, it stopped my breath short.
"His eyes," the words quietly slipped from my mouth "They are so beautiful." I could not look away. The woman paused, as if unsure how to answer without a fact or figure. "The color is rare." She said looking admiringly at the bird. "Most owls have brown eyes, or gray, but Forrest has amber eyes. We are so lucky to have him at our zoo. Of all the animals here, she smiled, He is my favorite."
I can not say what is right or wrong in the moral paradox of a zoo. I see the caged animals and wonder if they long for freedom or if they feel safe and secure. I look at the children around me becoming more aware of the world around them and wonder if the price of a zoo ticket may one day change the world. But I can say, I went to the zoo and my eyes were opened to a beauty I would have otherwise never beheld. I can say that the image of that magnificent creature will forever linger within my heart. I can say that as I gazed into the rare amber eyes of Forrest the owl, he showed me the handiwork of God, and my soul rejoiced in the wonder and glory of all the creatures upon this magnificent earth.
Photo Copyright Heidi Nickerson