Pulling the mug full of freshly brewed coffee to my lips, a sense of peace and serenity are carried on the scents of pumpkin spice drifting through the kitchen on this Sunday morning. As I stand over the stove keeping a watchful eye on the sizzling skillet filled with sausage, onions, and peppers, I reach for the eggs whisked in the bowl beside me. Pouring the egg mixture into the pan, I am immersed in the cooking experience. It allows me to quiet the mind and simply create.
As the eggs begin to absorb the heat and set amongst the meat and vegetables, a thunderous shout originates from my wife across the room. Filled with a touch of surprise and a bundle of excitement, just two words are needed to reveal the mystery. Snowy owl. And in that instant, our family plans for the day had been scrambled quicker than the eggs in my skillet.
The flurry of activity that ensued was chaotic, yet deliberate and purposeful. Breakfast inhaled? Check. Pets accounted for? Check. Jackets, binoculars, spotting scope? Check, check, and check. Nothing else was needed but the resolve to reach Little Talbot Island State Park sooner than the three hours estimated by our GPS. Even as a rather neophyte bird enthusiast, I realized that this was an opportunity not to be missed. For only the third time in recorded history, a snowy owl had been spotted in Florida. It’s not every day that you see snow falling from the skies in Florida. And this rendition of snow in the form of a snowy owl is rarer still.
Traveling north on I-95, the number of miles between us and our destination steadily decreased. So did the temperatures and our hopes for catching a glimpse of this stunning creature. As we exited the highway and turned east toward the coast, the cooler onshore breeze was raging war against the warmer inland air. The result of this harsh meteorological battle. Fog. As in the pea soup variety. With trepidation and anxiety, we finally reached the park entrance. With a recurring layer of mist being deposited upon our windshield, the wipers were intermittently active in hopes of sweeping both mist and fog aside for clearer skies to prevail.
Practically running towards journey’s end a half mile away from our parking spot, the boardwalk leading to the shore was beckoning us as an entrance to our own personal version of Eden. With each step, our eyes scrutinized the dense air, searching for the white apparition in the dunes. As we reached the cluster of other individuals gathering in the general vicinity, a final survey of the landscape secured our treasure. There he was. With a squint of one eye, an imaginary line drawn, the binoculars were raised into position and focused to produce an image that will forever be locked in my memory.
In a way that no words can possibly convey, this animal captured something within me and would not let go. Perhaps it was the elegant white color. Maybe it was the majestic posture amidst the sea of fog. Or it could have been the smooth and gliding manner in which his head swiveled to scan the surroundings. Like a scene out of a Harry Potter movie, it felt magical and surreal.
Beginning with a familiar routine of hot coffee and a comfortable breakfast, this day evolved into an adventurous and memorable expedition to a cold and foggy shoreline in north Florida close to three hours away. The wisdom you seek is already within you. Listen carefully and embrace it. Take chances. Live boldly. Experience life. These are the whispers that incessantly tug at my soul. Amidst daily distractions, these thoughts slip precariously far away. But they always return faithfully, as if tethered to me. Not to restrict my movement, but to encourage it. Less think, more do. Sage advice carried on the wings of a silent creature traveling from lands a hemisphere away. Thank you, my snowy friend. Godspeed.