It’s been a while since I last posted and I have been reading such a miscellany that it was hard to formulate a posting around. Well, I did just finish the novel “I Heard the Owl Call My Name” by Margaret Craven (1973, Doubleday). This was Craven’s first novel, but not her first published work. I was first tipped off on this novel when I read Eric Blehm’s “The Last Season” which I was riveted by. The true story of deceased ranger Randy Morgenson in the SEKI National Park system and the tale of his life and infatuation with nature and the backcountry was so compelling that I read the book twice in one week! Randy gave a copy of “I Heard the Owl Call My Name” to his wife just before his fateful last season. I won’t give away anymore of Blehm’s superb book…. but I knew I wanted to read Craven’s book to find out more. (Visit Blehm’s website at www.ericblehm.com).

In this sad, melancholic story, a young priest who is afflicted with a medical condition in which he has few years to live, is sent to a parish of Kwakiutl Indians called Kingcome on the seacoast of British Columbia. The novel was not fast moving, but rather poetic with references to times of the past for the Kwakiutl Indians moving into a rather turbulent and troubling future where the identity and purpose of the Indians was precarious. We know of the reference of the owl and its purported call of death. Now, I have to say, owls are among my favorite birds of prey and we hear a lot of owls where I live. In the spring, summer and fall, we hear owls almost every evening. I have heard saw whet owls and great horned owls in particular and have a great affinity for this majestic and mysterious bird. However, I recall one particular evening when we were staying at a relative’s home in Southern CO, we heard a great horned owl around midnight and the next morning learned of a fatal car crash not far from where we were staying. Now that really was chilling.

So, the young priest in Craven’s novel ultimately ends up hearing the owl call his name and a sweetly sad moment. And just when I thought I knew how the book was going to end, there was a strange twist of irony in a fate that was no different, yet was vastly different. And I don’t want to give it away, because I want you to read it!

This novel could become a classic study piece to look at philosophies of death and dying, of change within and around us, and of cultures and the changes; going from past to future and the magnitude of differences yet with a thread of tradition connecting the young to the old. In this sense, our current society seems to have lost that thread. I know I yearn for a thread of connection to the past, to my ancestors, to ancestors who were not my own but of those I’ve now read about. This is a book you’ll want to read, think, discuss and reread. Let me know what you think!

One other element of this novel I appreciated were the owl chapter icons in black and white. It’s worth looking at a copy of this book for the owl icons alone.

And for those who want to learn more about owls, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at and their All About Birds section. Do a search (use the Bird Guide) on the owl (or bird) name that you are interested in and you will find info on bird descriptions, conservation, habitat, migration, and my favorite – the SOUND of the bird’s call. And just google owls and you’ll come up with millions of hits. Here’s another great site: http://www.peregrinefund.org/explore_raptors/owls/owlsmain.html.

Another synopsis of the book is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Heard_the_Owl_Call_My_Name.

Lastly, for more information on owl mythology, culture and lore, visit http://www.owlpages.com/articles.php?section=Owl+Mythology.

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