The Well-Balanced Bird

My owl is a serious bird. She stands a full three feet from claw to crown, and though she never utters a sound, she commands the room.

She seems to be a barn owl, though her look is more monkish than ''monkey-faced'' - as more than one bird book has described her kin. Her serious face, with its large dark eyes, is framed by a red-brown cowl. Her eyes are surprisingly dull, yet she watches, unblinking, all my moods and movements.

No, that is not poetic license; she (or he?) watches my moods, watches and responds. When I am angry - over what seems to be the determined foolishness of politicians, for example - the tilt of her head counsels forbearance and a sense of history. When ennui is upon me, that same look reminds me that peace and solitude are not luxuries.

There are times, of course, when she looks precisely and simply like a bird who cannot understand what she is seeing: Plainly, I'm not a mouse, but what and why am I?

If I anthropomorphize a bit too much, it is because, like me, this bird has a navel, and feet of clay. In fact, she is made entirely of clay. But I swear, as will anyone who sits for long in my front room, that the owl's expression is no mere trick of the light. Those lusterless eyes somehow transmit, in any given moment, the very emotion required for balance.

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