Snowy Owl Pilgrimage

Best photo of the weekend! Rick photographing Snowy Owl (photo courtesy of Bob Morgan)


Last weekend was our Nature Writing and Yoga Retreat weekend at Ocean Shores, Washington.  We had four very lovely and lively participants.  I taught yoga sessions on Friday evening and on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  Rick guided the group in writing.  The weather at the coast was wild, stormy, windy, and rather cold.  We got hit with rain, hail, strong gusts of wind, and were literally sandblasted during our pilgrimage to see the snowy owls at Damon Point!  The storm added such a dramatic effect to the mood of the weekend.  And the group’s creative juices were flowing.

On Saturday evening before dinner, we were treated to a lovely concert given by two of the retreat participants, Lynn Graves and Bob Morgan.  Their band is called Morgan and Graves.  Lynn played the fiddle, Bob played the guitar, and they both sang.  We all enjoyed the contemporary acoustic, original and traditional folk songs they played for us.  I can’t stop humming Lynn’s song, Hotel Pamplemousse, with its sweet, humorous lyrics and smattering of clever French phrases.

On Saturday evening after dinner, everyone read their writing produced that very weekend.  It was outstanding.  I later asked Rick, “We’ve been so busy!  When did everyone have time to write as much as they did?”  And he said in a very admiring and teacherly voice, “Ohhhh, they were diligent! And they were inspired by this landscape and the snowy owls.”

And it is a truly unique landscape we have at Ocean Shores.  I hope from the writing pieces below, as well as from the photos and slide show, you will get a sense of our exciting Nature Writing and Yoga Retreat weekend and of our adventurous pilgrimage into the late winter wind-rain-hail storm to see our rare arctic visitors, the snowy owls!

Marykay's poem and photo (look for the peek-a-boo owl above title) You can click (twice) on the above image and scroll to the left to see a larger print)

By Katie Parish:

Today I walked my father’s beach near the mouth of Grays Harbor. A wet childhood of firewood and cascara bark harvests. Dad getting to drive grandpa’s car out of the hills, down logging roads, to his adolescent delight.
About once a winter when we were kids, dad would hear of a storm on the coast and announce that tomorrow we would make sandwiches and drive three hours to the ocean.
My mother, at home, would have died to see the wave drench her oldest daughter, Ann, screeching from a cavity in the jetty, then later whooping as my brother chased her on the beach before all five of us tumbled back into the green station wagon for the long drive home in the dark.
Today, my own children are grown and I am here to witness the snowy owls. I am in a grown-up group of hooded raincoats, boots, binoculars, and cameras. The wind, rain, blowing sand, and stunted trees have not changed since my father was a boy.
We almost tromp past the first owl on a log, swiveling her domed white head. Sedge grass, of the lightest golden brown, lies between us, waves in the wind. A rough green ocean is behind her. From my distance, her eyes look human. Through binoculars, her head hunches into feathers fluffed wide.
At one point she rose and flew — the same moment three other hidden snowy owls began to fly, before settling again on logs, waiting for nighttime and the rodent hunt.
On the walk back to the car, I was struck by the green of the short pine-like trees. I love greens. I tried to photograph the color, take it home to remember this day at the mouth of the river in the winter of the snowy owls.

Photo by Katie Parish (goes with Katie's poem below) Look carefully and you will see the snowy owl to the left of Rick.

A woman photographs
A man who photographs
The snowy owl

Photo by Katie Parish (goes with Katie's poem below)

Another group of three
With tripods
Raincoats of yellow, lime, and red

Four snowy owls rise,
Fly on shaped wings
Tides run

By Bob Morgan:

A white BMW passed us driving very impatiently in heavy traffic. There was nowhere to speed, really. The driver pulled up closely behind each car in front, changed lanes, passed on the right, passed on the left and was stuck in traffic like the rest of us.

The Tully’s in Ocean Shores has an odd collection of merchandise, including many “baseball” caps with insignia that did not appeal to me. Insignias that say, “I drink cheap beer and wear sleeveless undershirts.” There was a display of cups but none of the small size that I prefer for drinking coffee. – only very large cups. I can’t recall the images on each; I was too focused on finding one that was one and one-half, or two inches in diameter. There was a trinket representing a yellow kayak. I thought that was interesting and considered buying it.

We drove to the end of a lane that dead-ended at the ocean. The sign said: No parking between this sign and the ocean (or something like that). Sunlight was leaking through the clouds in a few places. There were splotches of bright color in a couple of places, relief from a very dark and wet day. A white car was stopped or parked at the beach. Some people were down there. The waves were violent.

Pill Grim Age:
The grass lying low
Swims, buffeted by the wind
It does not argue

The owl’s wings seemed so broad when it flew. Huge bird. We walked with the high wind at our backs. Knowing we would face it head-on on our return. I always like to hike up on the way out and down on the way back. Today’s hike was the opposite, but the walk back was more fun than I had anticipated. It is a nice feeling to have thick socks, rubber boots, long underwear, rain pants, a fleece jacket, gloves, rain coat, hood, a fleece hat, all protecting from the elements. Intense weather can be kind of fun when you wear your house on your back.

This reminds me of the person who worked with homeless people to design clothes for them.

Where the ocean meets the land – it must be the same at comparable latitudes throughout the world.

Speaking of amber waves of grain (beach grass), there is something hypnotizing about the patterns of wind blown grass.

Wind blown ocean
Nike, Puma, New Balance
These are sneaker waves.

A chickadee flits
I presume a yellow-rump
But incorrectly

A straight shot to Japan. Here comes the treasure, here comes the debris. I wonder if debris is a French word?

After lunch I am frequently overtaken by an overwhelming cloak of sleepiness.

Poem by Lynn Graves

Also written by Lynn Graves:

Coals glow class heats up
The teapot reflects us
cooking poetry

Revised poem (see photo-poem above):

Waves drain west
Foam blows north
Through dancing sandpipers

In order to see a Snowy Owl

Trying to outfox the wind
I put on layers, rainproof pants,
Windbreaker, fleece hat, and rubber boots.
We set off into the fierce storm
Pellets of ice hit our cheeks,
Clouds spitting rain.
Trudging through sand, wind driving us forward,
Cormorant half buried,
Skein of dunlin, speed of light.

Reaching the old roadbed, at last
Wind broken by a dune, tramping
Through backshore pines to the lee side.
Harbor waters icy green,
Calmer than the flinty ocean waves
(Even there, one brief spot of blue).
Loon flies by like a spear.

Doubling back into the wind
Up and down hillocks, stumbling into holes
A patch of ferns and russet mushrooms.
Nearly overlooking what we sought;
Hidden in plain sight,
Perching on a bone gray log
Like a yellow-eyed cat

Amid a sea of rippling grass
Pale as polar fur,
I stagger. Was it the wind,
Or has the great bear
Stirred in its sleep?

By Rick Clark:

Snowy Owl Pilgrimage

Into the storm
we lean and stump,
beat by sand and sleet,
the beach giving way
under booted feet,

the dune grass crumpled flat to paths
by the thousands who’ve come before us,
who, weekend after weekend,
have beaten their way
to the point’s far end

to finally see,
after media blitzes
and long-winded words of mouths,
the great, the ghostly,
the oh so real snowy owls

who’ve taken up residence
so far south on our continent
it’s worthy of the news,
worthy of fighting storms
and trudging such distances.

How sweet they look
in their pristine cozy plumage,
their heads pivoting around
as if on turrets, their eyes
piercing us to the bone,

till all at once,
this particular day,
five lift up into the wind,
flapping their long wide wings
so slow against the gale

they seem for a moment
to lose the battle against
our local storm. Or perhaps
they feel the air for a signal
it’s time to head back home).

Then just as abruptly,
they settle back down
on a log or grass-tufted dune
where again they pivot their heads,
suspicious of our presence—

we who, out of some strange
innocence and wonder,
a lot like mendicants,
come for an image, a word
of what we saw

to return to the city
with the evidence,
the ancient evidence
that in their existence
we’ll find our own.


blown along the beach
her chap-stick cap rolls and rolls
and she after it

up the sparrow springs
flown backwards by the wind–
headway lost

even a storm—
sand in the face—makes for
a good memory

for MaryKay:

seeing all not seen
mesmerized by the sea—
ancient retreat

By Fran:

Part I:  Our drive out to Ocean Shores on Friday, February 17:

Rick is driving and I am doing email in the car.  It’s a great opportunity to write long emails that require a road trip of sorts to actually write. I write Anita who lives in Scotland. As I write her, I hear the rain beating down on the car, on the window shield.  My fingers fly across the keyboard.  My fingers tap out words generated by my brain, dictated by my heart.  Anita wants to know if yoga is protecting me from the ill effects of aging.  She senses her age, she says.  I tap tap tap words while images of Anita and me at 19 and 20 years of age flit through my mind. As young women in college we dreamed about all the great things we’d do with our lives.  We shared ideas and we shared our youth. My mind is there at Indiana University.  And yet, I am present with the rain coming down so hard that Rick has to slow down.  Visibility is poor.  It’s the sound of the downpour that keeps me present even as I write my dear friend presently living far from me, a deeply forged friendship that will outlast our lives on earth, one that originated at a time in our lives when the whole world was a huge blank canvas.

Part II: Sunday morning yoga, February 19:

Early Sunday morning as I was teaching yoga to our lively group of four, I suddenly took notice of the rising sun, rays of light streaming through the windows.  Light spilled into our yoga circle, the promise and the gift of another day!  As if seeing it for the first time, I marveled at the windows framing the outside world of trees.  My eyes feasted on the greenery.  One hundred words to describe various shades of green would not be sufficient to describe the beauty I was taking in (as I was teaching!).  Earlier this weekend, I told the group about my parents first and only visit to our home in Ocean Shores and how they exclaimed, as soon as they entered our unfinished house, “Ma, chissa e ‘na casa di salute!” “This is a house of health!”  I thought of Aunt Lily and how she drew comparisons to this land and the farm she and my dad grew up on.  Is there a hint of the Mediterranean on this Northern Pacific Coast?  I delight in the suggestion of it.  I love what we have created here at Little Renaissance.  As I taught, I felt it is such a great privilege to share our sanctuary with our retreat participants.  And how lucky Rick and I are.  Our guests grace our home with their music, their hearts, their thoughts, their appreciation, their kindness, their openness of spirit and mind….Reach up with your arms as you inhale, and exhale as you draw your hands to your heart… focus your gaze on the trees outside.

And the grand finale, the Slide Show!  View on Full Screen and turn up your speakers.

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7 Responses to “Snowy Owl Pilgrimage”

  1. marykay Says:

    Kinships created
                       When unmet needs are sated
                                   Most likely its fate
    In gratitude…marykay


  2. Rene Says:

    Awesome! It makes me want to be there!!


  3. grace Says:

    This is so great and truly inspirational!


  4. grace Says:

    Kudos to Mary Kay!!!


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