Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Songbird and the Owl

The Songbird and The Owl

Despite my frequent longings for the Highlands of Scotland, I have to admit that my little cottage under the trees sits squarely in a most conducive location.  In about three hours, I can be lost in mountain forests, far away from the hoi polloi of city life with the very real possibility of meeting a black bear on a pine-needled pathway.  In about five hours, I can sink my toes in the sands of a windswept beach and stare out at a rolling sea. 
 Not bad, not bad at all.

When I was small, the only summer holiday we ever considered was that one that brought us to the beach.  Many of my parent’s friends, and many of my own still today, headed for the white sands and placid waters of the Gulf of Mexico as soon as school was out.  But then, as now, I have always preferred the wider, wilder, less accommodating shores that hem the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  The realization that just beyond that razor-sharp grey line of horizon swam the mysterious continent of Africa would cause my imagination to dance.  To stand on the Gulf and imagine Texas as the next landmass didn’t have nearly the same effect for me.  

Of course, then as now, my Gulf-loving friends frequently gloated over the extraordinary beauty of the sunsets that sink behind their favourite waters night after night.  I would naturally counter with the majesty of the glorious sunrises that rise up out of the Atlantic each and every morn.  Of course, in truth, I never really saw them.

Those who know me well know never to phone me before ten in the morning.  While I may indeed be awake, I am hardly conversant at that hour.  I’m an unrepentant night owl and no matter how many times I’ve attempted to morph into the sort of person who pulls up the covers at a “reasonable” hour and bounds out of bed with the birds, when the clock strikes midnight I am nearly always infused with a creative energy that demands not to be ignored.  Words fly into my head… stories…phrases…paragraphs.  A knitting pattern begs to be deciphered; the characters in the book I’m reading can be heard pleading for me to release them out into the night air.  

Just last week, however, I seriously altered my preferred schedule. I was heading to the low country for a writing event and wanted to be on the road early to escape the snare of city traffic.  So dawn found me driving down a sparsely populated highway, sipping coffee and listening to the Brandenburg Concerto #3.  And that dawn, my friends, was a revelation.

 Sunrise, as all you early risers know, happens slowly, like a beautiful idea that is so casually formed at first you aren’t even aware of it, and like most beautiful ideas, it begins with colour and light. I felt privileged to watch it unfold.  The autumnal trees lining the road began, bit by tiny bit, to reclaim their scarlets and golds from an ebony sky that only seconds before had rendered them invisible.  Ebony became indigo, indigo became grey - then pink, delicate as an eggshell, crept over the horizon before me, a herald of its vibrant cousins soon to follow.  Impossible to hold in repose, the sky became a glorious painting of light.  I pulled on my sunglasses and grinned, overcome with a temptation to change my character right around. Yes, I thought!  I shall become a songbird!  No more snowy owl for me.

Later that night, I opened the door to the porch outside my room.  Moonlight ran its fingers through the Spanish Moss that hung in the branches of the oak trees; its mysterious silver light fell across my bed, illuminating the books and  knitting I’d conveniently brought along.  A soft breeze swung through the screened door, carrying with it the scent of the sea.
I’ll let you guess what happened.

So tell me...
are you a Songbird?
Or a Night Owl, like me?

Christmas book sales are flying!
Reserve your copy of 


  1. Night owl. Can't write more. Dudley is asleep with his head on my right hand and I'm trying to type left handed!

  2. Dudley shifted his position so I can go on to say I have on occasion seen some beautiful sunrises such as at Haleakala Maui. And at times when we rose early to head out on vacation and avoid the LA freeway traffic it felt like we were the only people on earth and the world was ours alone!

  3. I am a avid reader so I am a night owl I love the following quote "Sunrise is God's Greeting and Sunset is His Signature." Each has its own beauty. I am a snowbird so am in Florida at the present, however, I would love to visit the low country. I love reading about the low country and the loggerhead turtles. One of my favorite books is Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe! I can remember one time of staying up all night reading a book because I simply could not put it down. I couldn't believe it when I noticed that it was day light outside. Can't wait for your next story.

  4. Night owl here .... most definitely.
    And I often knit into the wee hours as well ;>)

  5. With a PON in the house you have the option of not being up at first light ?

  6. I am definitely a night owl Pamela although I don't mind getting up early either. If I get engrossed in something then 4.00 am comes around very quickly !! I couldn't even think about going to bed before midnight !! Whenever we are out early { to catch a plane or somesuch } I can't believe how many people are out and about !! XXXX

  7. Definitely a night owl, but always hit the streets early when traveling or on the hunt for antique markets or estate sales. Eagerly awaiting more about the owl perched on your finger. Have you by chance read "The Owl Who Liked Sitting On Caesar" by Martin Windrow, who shared his home (in the U.K.) for 15 years with the most delightful tawny owl he named Mumble? The book is a delight as well, a real learning experience about owls, and guaranteed to touch your heart. I hear an owl every now and then in the woods across from my front door, but have yet to see one. A big hawk cruises around now and then. But right now, everyone over here is enthralled with the sighting of wild turkeys. :-)

  8. I am a songbird Pamela - I have no alternative when married to a farmer whe rises at 6am winter and summer after years of milking his cows. The fact that we have no dairy herd now has made not the slightest difference and I have got into the habit now.

  9. De-lurking to declare songbird status. Looking back over my Instagram profile, it appears I post sunrises more than anything else -- they never get boring! My husband is more night owl, although every few years he used to get inspired by reading some productive songbird's memoir or other, and he'd set his alarm for 5:30 or 6. Never lasted more than three days, before his circadian clock overruled the mechanical bedside one.
    And I should mention that as an early riser, I'm occasionally lucky to spot our local night owl making her last rounds (Barred Owl, to be specific).
    I do enjoy your blog. Thank you!

  10. When I was young I was neither, but marriage has changed me. Now I am a night owl. Even so, one of my favorite poems is about dawn:

    Out of the scabbard of the night
    By God's hand drawn,
    Flashes His shining sword of light,
    And lo--the dawn!

    Sometimes I wake early to see that it is so.

  11. I'm wondering if you've visited Scarista beach on the Isle of Harris. There is a charming little hotel there. We stayed many years ago when our kiddies were little. It's ravishingly beautiful. Also, speaking of Scotland, there is a sweet book series written quite a while ago called the Hebridean Quartet by Lillian Beckworth. You've probably read it already, but if not, I think you'd like it. I'm a songbird, but a slightly grumpy one who needs her coffee before flapping her wings. x

  12. Another night owl here, which made being in the working world hard. Add to that I've figured out my body needs a good eight hours of sleep, but prefers nine, which of course I never got while gainfully employed. Now that I'm retired, it's wonderful. My husband has always been a lark, but since retiring he's amended his ways a bit, though he always gets up before me, just no longer at the ungodly hour of 5:15. Now with the time change, I am seeing more of the sunrise. Up here on the mountain with only treetops outside my window and no close neighbors, I never close the shades. Today I was awoken by the most glorious orange glow. I sat up, looked out the window, admired the sunrise, lay back down, and promptly went back to sleep!

    I, too, appreciate the Atlantic ocean, and my family always vacationed at a well-known South Carolina beach, because that's where my grandparents had retired. As a young teen and a Beatles maniac, I would stare at the ocean and think 'England is over there.' I obviously had no idea about latitude!

  13. I am definitely a night owl! Great article! Wonderful writing. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Pamela,
    I've always been a songbird and I truly believe we are born to whichever one we are. I guess some people change, perhaps out of necessity (job, travel, etc.) but their instincts lure them back to the comfort of habit. If I were as constructive as you are late at night, I'd be tempted to try to alter the plan as well! :-)

  15. It's after 11:00 PM and I'm Googling Scarista House on the Isle of Harris, always dreaming of our next trip to Scotland! (Thanks, Herbalgirl!) Guess it's pretty obvious which bird I am! (Whooooo, me?)

  16. Your blog is a joy and feast for the eyes! By the way, I am a cat.


I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!