Owl Totem

The owl is the universal symbol of wisdom and insight. Perhaps that is what I am seeking since I have been painting owls all weekend. Today’s subject is a barred owl. He sits amid branches that are orchestrated to repeat the arches and angles of his wide-eyed orb.

I envy some of his qualities, most of all his focus. I am scattered in a thousand directions and my body is manifesting the emotional disarray. Mom’s illness was just the beginning. When she died on the New Year’s Eve that ushered in 2011, Dad not surprisingly went downhill. The first year after her death, he required emotional support and attention. Then last year in 2012, his health began to fail.

All summer, I was plagued with a persistent cough as I delivered him to one doctor after another, in a vain attempt to find the source of his back pain. It was a rough year. I had very little time with my horses, as they were boarded a half hour away. We didn’t get to go to Drummond. Dad became more and more crippled with his pain and my frustration levels rose. It was so hard to watch him suffer, while dealing with the never-ending bureaucratic red tape of the medical community.  He had a new pacemaker installed, surgery for bone spurs in his neck, and pain injections in his shoulder. The pain would not quit.

Though I have a huge family with seven siblings, the others were of minimal help, choosing to immerse themselves in the details of their own lives. As seems to the be the wont of many families, they were quick to criticize everything I did. My cough hung on as Dad finally began to have trouble breathing. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. I knew this was wrong, and I made an appointment with his cardiologist. Dad became very angry with me when I insisted on having him admitted, but then under the care of a pulmonologist, we finally found the source of the pain. There was a tumor capping the upper left lobe of his lung. It had been hiding behind the pacemaker, so didn’t show up in the many x rays we had ordered over the months he had suffered with it.

Dad couldn’t stay up in the far north and have treatment for lung cancer. A brother stepped forward to take him in. My dogs were not welcome in the brother’s home, so Dad’s care shifted to him.  When Dad started radiation treatments, my cough immediately stopped. I was convinced that it was psychosomatic, connected to Dad as I was. After all, my bond with him was the closest of all people I had known.

But the cough was replaced with terrible pain in my right shoulder. I realized that somehow I had torn my rotary cuff.  I couldn’t remember doing it, and it brought home the fact that I had not been caring for myself.  At this point, after two years of being consumed by worry and care for a sick parent and disabled younger sister, I realized that I had to find my own life again, spiritually, physically, economically and in every way imaginable.

My faith had been shaken, not only by the experiences of the past couple of years, but by the religious zealotry of siblings who didn’t help. I realized that life would never be the same. I could use some of Owl’s wisdom and insight now.

A good friend let me stay in her house while she went away for a few days. I knew I had to recover. I decided to begin with the outside. I started lifting weights again and took walks in the snow. I drank lots of water. I sat in the tub for a long time tonight, letting the heat soak into my shoulder, clearing my mind. I noticed the shower curtain nearby had some text on it. It was a Bible verse:  

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. -Isaiah 58:11

Printed on the shower curtain was a picture of an owl.

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About Nancy J. Bailey

Artist, author, bad karaoke singer. Woodsy ragamuffin. Mom of a horse named Clifford who plays fetch and paints with watercolors. He visits libraries and schools with me, to promote literacy and making the world a better place. Yes, he is house trained, no, he doesn't live in my house! I have written three books about Clifford. But my newest book, THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN, is co-written by my awesome sister Amanda, who has Down syndrome. Her unexpected one-liner wisecracks can always make me laugh. If you make me laugh, you've made my day!
This entry was posted in animals, art, faith, family, health, owl, totem, wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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