Sharing a love of these winged visitors brought optimism to a community.
Recently, a family of owls nested behind my house. An unfamiliar neighbor approached me and pointed them out. This simple interaction scared me; it had been around a month since I had talked to anyone in person other than my family because of COVID-19. From the first, I did not enjoy the owls’ presence; they reminded me of the uncomfortable interaction with my neighbor. However, I realized the local owls had come to symbolize hope in our community.
Even though the owls were smaller than I expected, they seemed to loom over our alley. They would perch for hours in the trees, then suddenly disappear. I had never seen them up close until I saw one fly past my window. I noticed how large the owl actually was. I saw the intricate pattern of its feathers and its pointy, commanding ears.
The owls started to attract crowds of admirers in the alley. Seeing so many people congregated together was strange after weeks of isolation. I wanted to see the owls up close myself, but I chose to avoid the alley. The observers were not distancing themselves from each other. Seeing the birds from my window reminded me of the confinement I felt, and my own isolation.
I had often met my neighbors outside; that changed with the pandemic. My next-door neighbor, entranced by the owls, reached out to talk. We initially reunited online and soon started talking outside again. Without the owls, I would not have reconnected with my friend. Having someone to talk to during a stressful time helps relieve the anxiety of the pandemic. I miss many things in quarantine: my friends, sports, extended family, and especially, socializing outside with my neighbors. Although the owls kept their distance, they brought me closer to my friend.
The owls appeared as suddenly as COVID-19. At first, they reminded me of my withdrawal from the community. I now realize that they strengthened the ties within our neighborhood. They attracted residents from all over my town. Sharing a love of these winged visitors brought optimism to a community facing the pandemic. Instead of dwelling on our distress, we shared a common interest we may have overlooked if not in quarantine. The owls sparked a community-wide fascination with the inconspicuous joys of nature.
Ms Goldstein is 15 years old.