Jessie Hannah Photography portrait

Life Lessons from a Wise Owl

The day we buried some of my dad’s ashes as a family, we heard an owl hoot in the middle of the day.

“That must be dad,” my youngest sister announced. She’s a very thoughtful person, who tends to be wise beyond her years.

The family reminisced about a time dad had come in from a walk in the acres of woods that surrounded the house and announced: “my spirit animal is an owl.”

Now, some of you might be picturing your dad when you imagine this. Perhaps someone who wears a suit and tie to work? It’s best if you try to imagine my dad, hair always wild and generally with a long beard, someone who liked to talk and muse and turned ocean stones into art. Now picture that man making such a proclamation. Not too out of the ordinary, really.

Over the next couple days we heard the wise owl day and night. This is unusual. I spent much of my life wandering these woods, camping in the field at night, exploring since childhood. I’ve never seen or heard an owl on the property.

So, it became known to the family that dad had turned into a wise owl after his death. Recently a six year old asked me, “how do you know?” I asked him, “how do you know your mum is your mum and your dad is your dad?” He responded, “I just do because they are.” Same. You don’t need to know a thing in your brain, and have all the facts lined up to know something to be true. This is faith. Intuition. Belief.

Lessons I learned from a wise owl:

  1. Have faith. Believe in something blindly because you know it to be true somewhere in your being.
  2. Also, question what you know! My dad was always learning more, and though not educated formally, learned about history especially our family history, religion and life.
  3. Be silly: my dad was always doing weird things like putting potatoes in our shoes and leaving funny notes with silly pictures out for us to wake up to. I didn’t know this wasn’t the norm but now as a silly adult, I totally appreciate how cool it was.
  4. Laugh: it took me many years to grow into my sense of humour, but I certainly have one now and it is a true blessing. As a kid, I didn’t like that not everyone took life as seriously as I did, but I now see the value of being able to laugh through the hard times.
  5. Do art. ‘Nuff said
  6. Look after the planet. My parents co-hosted the Atlantic Earth Festival when I was about four years old and I was always aware of environment issues and how important the planet is.
  7. You don’t have to know everything. I remember one time my dad telling me to stop saying “I know,” all the time. I was very pissed about this at the time but have thought about it over the years. His lesson was: you don’t know. And if you think you do, you never will know.
  8. Sit up straight. I’m still working on this but often recall the jabs in our back when we were slouching.
  9. Family isn’t just about blood. I have four half siblings and was raised to know that they were my siblings no matter how much genetic material we shared. I didn’t get it at the time, but I do now.
  10. Live your own life. My dad was strict, but he never imposed his views of how I should live my life.

Since then, I have often seen owls in the wild. I like to think that I am connected to my dad somehow through these wise creatures of the night.  

Here are some pictures from the day we first heard the owl. These were snapped shortly before we had a huge apple fight in the field. My dad also taught us not whine about a solid apple to the noggin, if it’s in the name of fun!

To this day, these are my favourite photos I’ve ever taken. My sister Branwen hand printed the cool shirt my brother is wearing.

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©Jessie Hannah 2019