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Animal Stories: Harriet The Owl

Graham Whitcroft tells of a very wise and kindly owl.

It was a Friday and a beautiful spring morning. The sky was blue (for a change), the daffodils were in full bloom and the trees were beginning to grow their new leaves. Harriet the owl was flying over her territory of the churchyard when something caught her eye.

It was Geoff, the robin. He was a very young robin, nothing but a lad, and he just stood there, by a gravestone, oblivious to anyone or anything. Harriet quickly changed direction and landed next to him. “Alright?” she asked.

“No’ came the quick reply, ‘I’m not alright”.

Harriet could tell this wouldn’t be a quick or easy conversation and her husband Jim would have to sit on the eggs in their nest just a little while longer than she had anticipated. “Go on, tell me”, she said.

It was a sad story. His granddad hadn’t been well for a few weeks but three days ago he had taken to his nest and hadn’t got out of it. Granddad had died that morning and Geoff was broken hearted. As he told Harriet his story, he cried and cried and cried. “I shall never see him again”, he said between his sobs.

“Look Geoff, I must fly and relieve Jim of his fatherly duties, but come and see me. Is tomorrow OK? You know where I live, in the oak tree next to the church tower”.

Geoff didn’t say a word as Harriet flew off but early the next morning he made his way to her nest as instructed. She was sitting on her eggs and waiting for Jim to bring her lunch. “Come on lad” she said to Geoff, sit on that branch and make yourself comfortable. Now, I want to show you something before we have a little chat”. Harriet got off her eggs and, as she nodded towards the nest said, “See, we’re having a family”. In the nest were four beautiful eggs. She turned them over and examined them very carefully then, just as carefully, sat on them again.

A little while later, Jim, Harriet’s husband flew in and nodded at Geoff.

“What kind of night have you had?” asked Harriet.

“Not bad’ he said, ‘it was a busy night and I bagged four mice; three of them have filled the larder nicely but I’m ready for breakfast and I could do with a bit of a nap.” So, after eating one of his night time catch, he exchanged places with Harriet, and had a sleep while Harriet and Geoff flew further up the tree. Once again, Geoff told her all about Granddad. She listened attentively.

Their conversation was interrupted. ”I think you’d better come here” shouted Jim to Harriet “something’s happening”. When they got back to the nest, Jim was peering inside it. “I was just sitting there’, he said, “when I felt something move underneath me. I must say I wondered if one of those pesky spiders had got into the nest, but when I looked – well, look for yourself”.

“I know what’s happening’ said Harriet, ‘and this is what I wanted you to see Geoff”. They all stood around twigs, moss and sheep’s wool that made up the nest and looked at the eggs. After a few minutes, they heard a ‘tap-tap’ and then another ‘tap-tap’ and then ‘tap-tap-tap-tap’. As the three of them looked, a small beak emerged on top of one of the eggs and began to remove the shell. As the hole got bigger they could all see a strange, naked creature that Geoff presumed was a bird, then it began to make its way out of the remaining shell.

“It’s a miracle’ shouted Geoff while both Harriet and Jim looked at him and in unison said, “Shhh”. But Geoff was overjoyed and thrilled at the privilege of seeing the birth of Jim and Harriet’s chick that he couldn’t help himself!

“Now, out of the way you two” said Harriet, “the poor little thing will be getting cold”. Then, settling herself on the nest once more, she turned to Geoff and said, “Come back early tomorrow morning and I’ll show you something else”.

The next morning, while it was still dark, Geoff flew in silently. He’d hardly slept in anticipation of what else he might see. Jim was still out at work but Harriet was there, sitting on her eggs as usual.

“Just look at this’ she said, as treading carefully she got off the nest to reveal not one chick and three eggs but four chicks. Geoff was thrilled to bits and couldn’t take his eyes off the new arrivals. “But that’s not the only surprise” said Harriet. “As it gets light, I want you to keep your eyes on the church tower, so sit, wait, watch and listen”. So he did.

Even before the light began to appear, the birds – all the birds – began to sing. It was such a loud chorus that Geoff could hardly hear himself think. “Keep watching. It will happen on the top of the tower”, said Harriet.

It was now fully light and Geoff was concentrating as hard as he could on the top of the tower, when all of a sudden, he heard a door creak open and watched as a human head emerge, then another, then another, until there were about a dozen people, all standing at the top of the tower.

“Listen” said Harriet.

Geoff listened. What he heard was the reading of a story. It was about two ladies who went to a tomb (“That means a grave” whispered Harriet in explanation) and discovered that the body that should have been in the tomb wasn’t there. But then, so the tale went on, an angel told them that Jesus, the fellow in the tomb, wasn’t dead after all, but had been raised from the dead.

Then, someone else in the group on the tower said, “Christ is risen” and everybody else shouted back, “He is risen indeed. Hallelujah”. Then all of them sang a song – not as nicely as the birds were singing, but nice enough.

“What’s going on?” asked Geoff.

“That’s what I wanted to show you” said Harriet. “It’s Easter Day and those people are praising God because Jesus has overcome death by rising from his tomb”

“That’s OK for humans” said Geoff, “but what about us birds?”

“If human beings can rejoice”, said Harriet, “so can we, including your Granddad”

“Really?” said Geoff “now that is good news”.

“And do you know what symbol these human beings use to remember the fact that Jesus came out of from the tomb?”

“I wouldn’t like to guess” said Geoff.

“Then I’ll tell you. It’s an egg, a chocolate egg, the same shape I laid, only bigger.

“Fancy that!” said Geoff, utterly surprised that human beings should use something from his world to remind them of something so important.

Fly off home now” said Harriet to Geoff “and have a happy Easter”.

“I will now”, Geoff twittered as he flew off home.


Luke 24: 1 to 12; 1 Cor 15: 51 to 57


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