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wandering spirit.

August 16, 2014

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.” Matthew 12:43.

I started this blog in August of 2009. This is my 446th post. I have not, until now, written about why I chose this name. I don’t know why I’ve waited so long. Had other things on my mind.

Might as well write about my blog title now.

“Wandering Spirit”.. this phrase, for me, has several meanings.

1. Many years ago, I read the Bible passage that I just put at the beginning of this post. I imagined spirits wandering through dry lands. I knew that these spirits the passage referred to were demons. I did not think of myself as a demon, or demon-possessed (although I have on very rare occasions wondered about that) but I did feel, for so many years, like a spirit, or a person having a spirit or soul or whatever, who has been rejected and condemned by God. I’m not going to go into my mental health problems and other issues now. I’ve written more than enough about those things already. You can find posts on these topics by looking at the tag cloud.

I was a Christian for over 20 years, but left the church in around.. 1996.. that’s my best guess. Since then, I’ve described myself as agnostic, sometimes leaning Buddhist, but also curious about various forms of paganism and Taoism.

I decided being agnostic was a lot less psychologically damaging than believing in God and hating God.

2. The second meaning.. and why I chose the owl. First.. a little bit of info about the owl in the picture. He is a non-releasable barn owl that lives at a wildlife rehabilitation center in California where I volunteered for over two years. I stopped helping out there when I moved from California to Idaho in late 2010. I wrote many posts about wildlife care, and you can find those in the tag cloud.

The owl is semi-tame, and last I checked via email with one of the wildlife center staff, the owl is still alive. I don’t know quite why he is non-releasable. I heard several stories, and don’t know which ones are accurate.I head he was non-releasable because he couldn’t fly due to a wing that never healed properly. That turned out to be untrue. I saw him in a flight cage just before dusk. He was flying quite well.

I also heard that he’d likely been raised in captivity. He exhibited certain behaviors I was told were common to tame parrots and cockatoos, such as stamping his feet in irritation, and hopping on people’s heads.  He hopped on my head several times. Good thing I always wore a thick knit cap when looking after the owls and other raptors. (I and the other staff almost always cleaned out the enclosures while the birds were still in them). I think the guess about the owl being raised in captivity and therefore too tame to be released is accurate.

Why are some animals considered non-releasable? Non-releasable animals are wildlife that are rescued and brought to health, but not entirely.. they might have a damaged eye, or slightly damaged wing.. or they might become too tame while receiving care. That last part almost never happens in wildlife centers with good staff. We really made an effort not to let the animals get too attached to us, unless they had a permanent injury that did not leave them in pain. A veterinarian helped us with the animals, and if the injury caused the animal chronic pain, I’m guessing the vet would figure it out, tell us, and someone on staff would euthanize the animal as humanely as possible.

This owl was my favorite. I got to hold him a lot, including a few times when I got to present him to the public at various events, and talk about him. I cleaned out his cage and fed him almost every shift I worked, unless I was assigned to other duties. If I was otherwise occupied, another staff member looked after him. He is a beautiful bird with a lot of personality.

I worked with many owls at the wildlife center. The vast majority of them were wild. I cared for and fed them, and got to release some of them back into their habitats when they were ready. I really like owls.

I’ve only seen three owls here in Boise. The first was a screech owl I saw perched in a neighbor’s yard just before full dark. The second owl I spotted was a Great Horn. I saw that one in a nearby nature reserve in late evening. It flew up from ground that was just ahead of me on a trail, and perched in a tree.

The third owl I saw here was remarkable. I saw it recently. It was perched in a tree located right beyond our patio just outside the part of the house where I sit down to eat everyday. It was a screech owl, but larger than any I saw before. I saw it during daylight hours, in the afternoon. It had a badly damaged eye, but appeared to be healthy otherwise. Strange. Were it brought into a wildlife rehab center that way, it would have immediately been deemed a non-releasable animal.. unable to care for itself, and kept in captivity, or put down. But this owl.. I got a close look at it through my camera (see my post called “the owl” for pictures).. the injury looked old, and the bird did not look young. It somehow managed to feed itself in an urban environment while only being able to see with one eye.

It kept both eyes closed the majority of the time I was watching it, photographing it, and making a video of it. It did not even open its eye when a hummingbird was pestering it. But, while I had my camera zoomed in on it, and was making a video, the owl turned to me, and opened its good eye. I could not see in the camera’s screen well enough to really tell that one of the owl’s eyes was badly damaged. I didn’t fully notice this until I was checking out the footage of the owl on my computer. I was quite surprised, and wondered if the owl being there, and turning to look at me, even though I was being quiet, had some spiritual significance. I still don’t know if it did or not.

I suppose if I were into shamanism, then my spirit animal would be an owl. That might not be the best choice. Here is some information from a website called

“In most Native American tribes, owls are a symbol of death. Hearing owls hooting is considered an unlucky omen, and they are the subject of numerous ‘bogeyman’ stories told to warn children to stay inside at night or not cry too much, otherwise the owl may carry them away. In some tribes, owls are associated with ghosts, and the bony circles around an owl’s eyes are said to be made up of the fingernails of ghosts. Sometimes owls are said to carry messages from beyond the grave or deliver supernatural warnings to people who have broken tribal taboos. And in the Aztec and Mayan religions of Mexico, owls served as the messengers and companions of the gods of death.

Owls are not always viewed as eerie harbingers of death, however. In the Hopi tribe, the great horned owl, Mongwu, is a humorless lawman who plays the role of ‘straight man’ against the antics of the Koshari clowns. And in the owl myths of some tribes, the birds are portrayed as bumbling good-for-nothings who are banished to the night-time hours as punishment for their lazy or annoying behavior.”

There’s even a story I read back when I was a kid, called “I Heard The Owl Call My Name.”

Ok.. so.. harbinger of death, messenger of the underworld, absconding with children, a lawman (that’s not a bad thing, at least, except for the “humorless” part) and lazy/annoying. Perhaps not the best spirit animal. But I still like owls.

I think of owls as wandering spirits. I guess that isn’t exactly the Native American interpretation, but anyway.

There’s a VERY creepy show that aired many years ago, called “Twin Peaks.” One of the characters is a demon-possessed murderer. Toward the end of the show, the demon takes the form of a Great Horned Owl, if I remember correctly, and flies off into a forest.

I can understand why deadly, winged creatures that fly by night (hey, that’s the name of a classic album by the band Rush, and there’s an owl on the cover.. sorry, I digress), might inspire dread. But I don’t think of owls as dreadful. I think of them as mysterious, beautiful, and yes, somehow spiritual.

3. I chose the name because, for a very long time, I’ve been wandering spiritually. Starting pretty much right after I decided not to go to church anymore (I didn’t make this decision because of one major event, but rather for a multitude of reasons), I started reading about other faiths. I could never settle on a particular one for long, so was always wandering and feeling like I was wandering without rest.

4. The last reason I chose that phrase is because, when I started the blog, I did not intend to only write about one theme. I had always planned to write about random topics. And in many posts, I’ve written about several, or even many topics.

Now you know why I chose that name.


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