Cornelius

The late fall before my daughter Nola was born, we met Cornelius. It was a chance acquaintance, happening only in the early morning hours when my fitful third trimester (lack of) sleep was kept company by his low low voice outside our window.

Or he'd swoop over my husband's car, his wings broad and confident. A brushling sound, a hushed almost nothing.

We knew from his size, his sound, his blunted head that he was indeed an owl, and he seemed--especially to Matthew--to like us, to be around often enough that Matthew gave him a name.

Cornelius, which seemed owlish.

I thought, being pregnant and deep deep into names and meanings (even more than usual I should add), that an owl must be a very good sign. Wise and watchful. Instead, when I researched the symbolic meaning of owls, I found Native Americans see them as a sign of death.

My quietest, most horrible inward voice whispered what if?

Yet, Nola arrived and all around us flourished in a way.

Backward vision is as wise as they say owls are: I hunched and wept and fought through five dark months of undiagnosed postpartum depression--months so blurry in my memory today that I don't really remember Nola's infancy. She was cared for, my son was cared for, my husband was cared for. I had nothing left for myself. We thrived, somehow--thanks to the help of family and friends.

I only thrived because Matthew--the wisest truest person I know--spent last summer, as I often tell him even now, "bringing me back to life." He can never give me another gift to match the time and care he gave me in June and July. Rest, and sunshine, and encouragement, and prayer. A life again. And better and stronger.

Today, driving down our driveway on his way to teach, Matthew glimpsed something swooping over and past the windshield--a wide, winged thing.

Cornelius.

Reversing the Jetta, flicking the headlights to bright, he clicked a quick picture of "our" owl.

I laughed when the image arrived on my phone later in the morning. And looked once more into the meaning of owls.

They aren't death-bringers, really. If anything, they mean a death of something--which is, simply, a change. They are thought by many to usher in a change in a person's life--Native Americans and other heritages see owls as spirits of loved ones here to guide us to newness and healing and--change.

Last year was the most change we've encountered in our family, in our marriage, in myself. I'm a scarred, bruised wreckage in a way--but in the best way. I rise up and up because I am made new. This change is a seed cracking in two so that the sprouting may begin.

Today, it is springtime in so many ways. The sap is rising, the budding swells and unfurls. Change is burgeoning. I am too.