Graham R. Cooper
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.*
They’re little owls. None of them so far are depictions or miniature replicas of Little Owls (Athene noctua) as such, but they’re definitely little. (See little-owls-in-the-gully.)
Penny, the first owl to take up residence in my writing room, is carved out of wood and perches on top of a wooden pen. She arrived a couple of years ago, around the time we started to call our place Little Owl Gully. ( See little-owl-gully.)
Some months later, I started to write a blog about life at Little Owl Gully. And that was also the start of my little owl collection.
Owls are pretty solitary birds, so it’s been a case of them arriving one bird at a time. All they need to do is to be little, and to connect with me on a more than superficial level. That’s more of a challenge than you’d imagine, as evidenced by the fact that two years on and my collection’s not yet reached double digits.
I don’t go on the hunt for them, which would have to be the main reason growth’s been at a glacial pace. There are no ‘collector’s pieces’ amongst my mongrels, however, all my pieces do trigger memories that are meaningful to me.
Let’s start with the mug I’m drinking from as I write. It’s mid-morning, and I’m having my first strong, long black coffee fix of the day. Being a three mugs a day strong black coffee man, you can imagine how satisfying our relationship is!
The mug’s stylised black and white owl designs on a white background remind me of one of my short-lived arty phases when, under the influence of some fibre artist or other who worked only in black and white, I made this large and technically challenging felt wall hanging using a black design on a white background.
The one that keeps an eye on me from the top of the bookcase, would, in a Harry Potter universe, be a ‘live’ character from a painting hanging in a room at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. That little owl keeps all bar one of the others in check and makes newcomers feel both at home and intimidated at one and the same time – they soon get to know their place! Cardy, as I call him, is on the birthday card June gave me for my sixty-fifth birthday.
That’s when we closed down our felting business and retired. It’s also when I decided to write a blog about modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully.
The eyes and the sweep of the lines round the eyes and beak were the design inspiration I used for the icon I place at the end of every blog post.
Furry, as I call her, is the only owl on an equal footing with Cardy. (‘Footing’ is about right, because all the owls sit on various surfaces in my room – the only flying they do is in my flights of fantasy.)
Furry lives at the back of my writing desk. All fluffed up, she does a great job of hiding a couple of cable plugs. Her big eyes don’t miss much, but you can ‘pull the wool over her eyes’, so when that happens I have to gently smooth back the fur covering her eyes.
June made her from bleached possum fur left over from our felting business. (We’d make a round felt hat out of a blend of alpaca and wool fibre and then June would sew on a wide band of possum fur as a trim.)
Furry has an identical twin sister called Owly who lives with Olive, our two year old granddaughter. Furry and Owly don’t hangout, but I’m sure you understand why. Just imagine the vast differences in their respective upbringings!
As you can see though, I do have a veritable web of connections with Furry.
As for Cardy, well you’d hardly call him “a bit of a card”. Being in just the two dimensions can’t help. But he’s pretty good company nonetheless, and knows his Shakespeare. Like a bikey patch, Cardy proudly wears the quotation that opens this post. (For those of you of a different frame of mind – it was written on the back of the card.)
My owls are a very individualistic bunch and not given to regimentation of any kind, but the head sherangs felt pretty stoked to be invited to help me muster the rest of them for a group photo. Cowed by the penetrating stares of Cardy and Furry’s owlish eyes, they perched stiffly and I gave up on getting smiles out of them.
Creatures of habit, I only kept my little owls away from their established territories for as long as it took to snap the picture.
Up to now, it’s been just one of those things that all the owls have been small. But my room is also small. So, having given it some thought, I can see it’d have to be a mighty special large owl that could wheedle its way into my affections. And I’m not sure that I could convince myself, let alone you, dear reader, that it was still my ‘little’ owl collection.
*from The Tempest by William Shakespeare
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.