The owl and the playtime pinewoods
(dedicated to Josie)
There was an owl on the chimney cowl
The same evening my mother died.
And the visit made her death less hard,
For all her long life she had loved owls.
Odd, in Shepton - when its gaol still thrived -
Our house should overlook a graveyard.
But this was no chance fleeting visit
For she stayed with us all the night through
Calling in that melancholic way.
The scientist in me cared not one whit,
For I knew she called tu-whit to you,
And knew it was love she had to say.
She might have come before, though not seen.
Her pleading penetrated the walls
Calling us out to listen and hear.
The garden was warm, still and serene.
So we stood, mesmerised by the calls.
And I had little doubt she was there.
Weeks later, coming back from the moss,
Driving the lane from Fishermans Path
In the dusk of a warm summer night
The owl stopped us, right there was my loss,
Plonked on the road, resembling a wraith.
There she stood long before taking flight.
Lazy-winged down an adjacent drive,
The bungalow’s curtains tightly drawn,
To close out the wild life of even
Tide, the same owl we’d just heard alive
In the pinewoods sounding so forlorn,
Stopped us again and made us listen.
Thereafter, each time when I walked there,
Where my mother would play as a child,
The owl never failed to call to me
Even in the bright sun of day's glare.
Was this owl wild, I mean really wild?
Or some spectral thing, comely ghostly?
All told true by my daughter Josie,
For whenever we went, at that time,
The owl would mysteriously come
And call to speak to us privately.
Telling us that everything was fine,
And not to worry, this is her home.
The pinewoods in the nineteen twenties,
In trees up and down the dunes, planted
To stabilise the sand from the sea,
Was a playground to rival any
Modern activity park so themed
For holiday-making families.
There are few woods now where kids can play
Hide and seek, climb trees and build their dens,
Chase the girls and/or frighten the boys.
Where no adult ever frowns to say
Stop that! Not here! It is forbidden!
Make no complaint of innocent noise.
The woods now echo to no child’s game,
Just the shadow of Alice Marshall.
To keep her company and beside
Us. Our mysterious owl became
Her living presence by sight or call.
The playtime pinewoods where she abides.
Somerset, Lancashire & Devon. Written December 2018