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The story I’m about to tell happened this week. Perhaps it isn’t remarkable at all. Or perhaps it is. I just hope you smile.
People have told me that when you see a feather, an angel is nearby. The property around the house where my husband and I live is frequented by many birds—robins, nuthatches, grosbeaks, jays, doves, pigeons, ravens—nearly anything but owls. Instead, a pair of red-tailed hawks patrols the area.
My husband, who was sidelined for much of the summer with a leg injury, has been working feverishly to catch up with cutting trees and splitting firewood—so much so, that I was concerned when he ended his day by loading a 300 gallon tank into the back of his pickup to drive 12 miles to the closest water station to collect water for our home cistern.
He looked tired—really tired. Neither of us recuperates quite as quickly as we once did. I’m not a religious person (I’m severely allergic to piety), but I whispered a prayer that he be protected to come home safely. The highway he was to drive winds between a river on one side and rocky cliffs of coal and sandstone on the other. Rock falls are frequent, especially in a rainy season.
The truck was carrying over a ton of water on the way home, when the engine shuddered twice and died. Immediately, my husband had no brakes or power steering. He was on a curve where there was no shoulder. With his heart thumping, he coaxed the truck to roll to a stop past the curve and then muscled it to the side of the road and off into the weeds. Just ahead of him, the shoulder disappeared behind a steel guardrail. He sat collecting himself, as huge oil field trucks zipped past. He knew he was very lucky. His cell phone worked there, and he was able to call me and then a tow. Meanwhile, to lighten the truck, he emptied the 300 gallons of water he had just purchased and watched it slip down the hill and into the river.
Later, as we sat eating dinner, he was complaining. Not only had he been forced to pay for a tow to a mechanic, but he also had to wait while a reconditioned alternator (the only alternator in stock) was installed–only to discover it was defective. He decided to order a new one, instead, since he would have to wait another couple of days to get his truck back, anyway. One of the mechanics gave him a ride home, a favor that didn’t balm the sting of the unanticipated expenses.
I smiled at my husband. “Thank God you’re safe,” I told him. He smiled and agreed, and as he did, a fluffy round white owl feather drifted slowly past the dining room table at eye level. The screens on our windows and doors were closed. We looked at one another, our eyes wide, and laughed. “Yes, thank you,” we said almost in unison.
That was what happened. We haven’t seen the owl feather since.