While ducking under the bone-bare branches of a snowy wood, I came face to face with a pale barn owl. It perched on an aspen branch at the exact height to be eye level with me when I stepped around the tree’s trunk. I found myself close enough to count the small feathers on its face and to become quite familiar with the wicked curve of its beak. I took a swift step backward out of striking range.
“Excuse me,” the owl hooted. The muffling effect of the snow grabbed at the low sound. “I have no dreams of my own and I cannot sleep without them. Would you lend me one of yours?”
I glanced around at the dim afternoon light filtering through the gray clouds above. Nothing else moved out there in the cold. Regarding the owl once more, I thought this nocturnal creature must have been awake a very long time now. “You may keep the dream,” I said. “I will have little need for it back.”
“Very good,” said the owl. “Might I request a dream of home?”
So often was the case that those I met already knew I wandered, I felt a faint surprise. “I am a Wanderer,” I explained. “I have no dreams of home.”
“I know what you are.” The owl blinked canny black eyes. “Not everyone has a home,” it continued, “but all feel a yearning for someplace.”
I stilled, thinking. The owl shuffled its feathery wings, patient. Waiting.
At last, I said, “When I dream of that place, I dream of the night sky.” I wondered if I should give such a thing away after all.
The insomniac owl cocked its head. “That will do nicely,” it said. “But once I’ve slept, I believe I will return it to you.”
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