Chapter 18 - Imprinting
Sushi continued to lengthen his time
away from us. He was going back to the wild. It was silly to miss the owl so
much, but we both did. The neighbors would call us with sightings. One neighbor
swore she saw two identical Barred owls in her back yard. This sighting was
dismissed. She didn't understand how quickly Sushi could appear and disappear.
She only thought she saw two owls, when there was only one.
It was easy to tell what area of the
neighborhood Sushi was visiting because he would be followed by a flock of
screaming birds, if they spotted him.
We didn't feed the owl anymore. He was completely self-sufficient. He never came
to us begging for food. We were still blessed with his infrequent appearances.
Sushi was just as friendly as ever when he visited us.
Late one Saturday evening in the
Fall, we went out to the houseboat to gaze at the full moon. It had turned quite
chilly, so we went inside the boat and sat by the big glass picture window
looking out at the glimmering marsh, and full high tide.
The moon was enormous, and pure harvest gold caught in a net of sparkling stars.
It was like ghostly daylight, the moon was so bright. The flood tide was so high
you could barely see the tips of the marsh grass. The tidal creeks and
intracoastal waterway had all melded together into what looked like an enormous
placid lake. The big houseboat was floating, and bumping gently against the
As we sat in front of the big picture
window, talking, Sushi quietly came and landed on the piling in front of the big
picture window. He sat there in silence, looking out over the marsh and
shimmering water as we were. He turned his head once and gazed at us through the
window for a long time with that mysterious, unblinking owl stare. As
quickly as he came, he disappeared again, gliding on whispering wings over the
glassy black water.
We didn't think much about the owl's
appearance. We were used to visits from Sushi, and were always pleased to see
him. Sometimes he stayed longer than others.
We continued our conversation. I don't know what made me look up when I did, but
there gliding back across the water toward the boat was Sushi. "Steve! Steve!
Look! Right behind Sushi, gliding in the moonlight over the twinkling water, was
another owl, identical to Sushi.
It wasn't an optical illusion. Our
neighbor had seen two owls! Sushi had found a mate. The incredible pair of owls
swooped over the water and made a pass right in front of the big bay window,
with Sushi in the lead. Then, they flapped silently off into the dark shadows of
the pine forest. Sushi had brought his mate right in front of the window on
purpose. He wanted us to see his new friend.
We were both ecstatic. Whatever we
couldn't teach Sushi, a wild mate could. The mate would help find a nest, teach
Sushi new things to eat. Hopefully, as we always dreamed, there would be baby
owls in the future. What a gift it was to watch the two owls flying in sync
together over the moon-drenched water.
Little did we know, it was the last
time we would ever see Sushi.
As happy as I was for the owl, I
began to mourn our loss. For a month I walked the property calling "Soooooshi... Soooooooooshi!"
But, the owl never came. I sensed the owl was near. But, once Sushi found his
mate, he never returned to people again. All of the neighbors sightings stopped
at the same time. Steve would give me that LOOK. The look that says, "I know you
miss Sushi... so do I." But, he didn't say anything. Grown men don't miss owls.
The next frigid full moon night came.
Sushi had been gone a month. Steve had been outside. He came back into the house
and said... "Come with me." We walked out in the frosted grass and stood in the
shadow of the giant pine forest that borders our property. The moon was
enormous. It was clear and cold. There were no clouds hiding the diamonds in the
sky. The stars were so bright and close it seemed as if you could pluck one from
the heavens. The evening was deathly still. We stood there in silence for a
while. Shivering, I wondered why Steve wanted me to come outside. I assumed it
was to look at that incredible moon and crystal stars over the tops of the
Then, I heard it. Two owls! They were calling back and forth to each other.
"Whooo... whoooo... .who-cooks-for-you... whoooo." One call was deep and mellow. The
other call was light and melodic. Sushi had finally learned how to hoot! I stood
there with tears running my face. Sushi was fine. Sushi was free. Sushi was
I made a promise to myself standing
there in the white glow of the moonlight. I would never call the owl again. How
difficult it must be for Sushi to hear me calling. He had to feel the tug of
being with a wild mate, or being with humans. Sushi had made the right choice. I
said goodbye to Sushi that night, and wished him luck. I was quite sure he could
see me and hear me from his perch high atop the pines. I've never called Sushi
All the research on owl behaviour
states that it is very bad for owls to imprint on humans, because they will
never go back to the wild. What all the research neglected to to say was that
humans can imprint on owls, and lose their hearts to these magnificent,
mischievous, magical creatures. We had imprinted on Sushi. He will forever be in
Maybe, one day in Springtime, I'll
walk out to the houseboat and find Sushi perched on Sushi's tree with three
really ugly, fluffy owlets. I can dream can't I? Till that day comes when I see
Sushi again, I will miss the owl the rest of my life. I only hope someday,
someone else will bring me a silver down-feathered ping-pong ball to raise. This
time, I'll be a better mommie.
Shortly after saying goodbye to
Sushi, we found this wonderful piece of art at Artikles Gallery in Saint
Augustine, Florida. The artist, Deborah Kosa, generously gave me permission to
reproduce it here.
The caption reads:
"Dark eyes may see before the night
Together they soar before true flight
To see the stars. To feel the moon.
What a gift they have...
come soon... "
The owl with the tear in its eye
reminds me of Sushi, torn between his kind and our kind. I'm glad his kind won.
Previous Page | Next Page