Once upon a time there was a tiny, tiny owl. He wasn’t a big, majestic Great Horned Owl and he wasn’t a beautiful barn owl. He was a burrowing owl and he had a very strange problem, he was afraid of the dark.
The first thing he ever remembered was being rescued by some nice ladies one night from a big field. He couldn’t remember his mother and he couldn’t remember his father. The ladies took him out of the cardboard box he’d been in and put him in a cage and turned the light out and left.
When he was put in a cage at the rehab center he was placed between two other owls. They scared him. They scared him a lot. The huge owl next to him kept clacking his beak and twisting his head to look at the little owl.
“Whooooo are yooooouuuu?” The big owl said in a breathy voice.
“Nobody, nobody at all.” The little owl barely breathed out and went and huddled in his corner and started to cry. He cried and he cried. He didn’t know where he was and he didn’t know why he was here and that big owl made him feel like he was there to be lunch.
One of the ladies heard him and came in and saw where he was. “This won’t do.” And she picked up his cage and left the room. “What are we going to do with you?” she asked him. I can’t put you back in there and the other rooms will think you want to eat them and she carried him back down the hall to an office. She placed him on an open space on a filing cabinet. She sat down and looked at him. He looked a right sorry mess. He still had mostly pin feathers and not his real feathers and they stood up around his head and made him look quite silly.
“I guess you’ll just have to stay here.” And she dropped a cloth over his cage but he started to cry again. He didn’t want to be alone and he didn’t want to be in the dark. Bad things happened to him in the dark. He thought he remembered having brothers and sisters and not being alone. He started to remember a nice warm nest and nice warm mice for supper. He remembered bumping his head on his mom and dad when they stood in the nest. And he seemed to remember a burrow and a tunnel. Where, oh where was everyone else?
The cloth came off the cage. A kind face bent in to look at him. “Are you hungry or do you just want company?” The face asked. The woman disappeared out the door and came back a while later with a very small mouse. The little owl looked up. “This was better” he thought as she dropped the mouse down into the cage. Luckily the mouse was dead. He’d never killed anything and he had no idea how to do it. She turned away as he ate his dinner. She started to put the cloth on the cage again but he hooted at her desperately. “Please don’t do that. Please! Please!”
The woman didn’t speak owl but she seemed to understand his distress. The last time he had felt safe was with his mom and dad and now it wasn’t safe anymore. He never wanted to be in the dark again, never, ever, ever.
This went on for weeks. Every time the woman tried to cover the cage he hooted in distress. If she turned out the light he huddled in the corner and hooted softly until they turned the light on again.
Meanwhile he was growing into a handsome young burrowing owl. He was fully fledged in a few weeks and the woman began to take him outside to try his wings. Soon she was letting him fly after small mice to see if he would try to catch them. He did very well. She began to let him do this in the early evening and she did it early in the morning before anyone else was at the rehab center. Though when she came in the morning she did it with a cup of hot tea close at hand and muttered to herself a lot. This made the owl chuckle. Soon he caught every mouse she let loose but he always came back to the woman. She had been hoping maybe, just maybe he would feel brave enough to leave on his own.
Finally after several weeks he was put in a big wooden crate and taken for a truck ride. He hooted and clucked to try to talk her out of it but she shook her head and said to him “Hermes, it’s time for you to go.” And she carefully had placed him in his box.
He was so confused and he was scared and it was starting to get dark. What was happening to him? It was getting really dark and he hated that bad things happened in the dark to him. But it didn’t stop the truck as it bounced along the dirt road. The truck stopped and the box was opened. Two gloved hands reached carefully in and grabbed him. He was walked for awhile and then set on the ground outside a cozy looking hole and the woman walked away without a glance back. He was on his own and it was almost dark. He huddled down. Now what did he do?
As he huddled he started to listen, he started to hear small sounds in the grass near his hole. His eyes started to adjust to the light of the setting sun. Maybe it wasn’t so dark after all and most of all he started to get hungry. He had a feeling that the woman with a nice face wasn’t going to be back to let some nice fat mice run in the grass. He was on his own and he was hungry. He was getting really hungry. He hopped a few steps and leapt up into the air.
Wow! This was a lot different from the grass around the rehab center. He climbed a bit higher. He could see where the sun had set. It was still a little pink far in the west. He widened his eyes a bit. He hadn’t opened his eyes fully in darkening light in a long time and he was so overwhelmed with what he was seeing he forgot to be afraid for a moment. He glided on the breeze and looked down on the waving grasses and the trees that were moving slightly in the breeze and he saw something moving in the grass. Dinner! He thought and he dove without thinking about it. He grabbed the running mouse and headed back in the direction of his hole and landed. He made quick work of his dinner. He wasn’t cruel he just needed to do it quickly and not hurt the mouse more than necessary.
And then he started to shiver, with his stomach full he started to worry again. It was getting darker and darker. Things were in the dark, bad things and now he was one of the things in the dark. It was weird to think that some one might be afraid of him in the dark.
But you can only be scared for so long and then you start to think and Hermes was thinking hard.
Last time he was out here alone he was small and didn’t even have feathers. Now he had feathers so he could fly if he needed to. He had nice long talons. He sat there flexing his claws. They were a lot bigger too and that nice lady had taught him how to catch his dinner, maybe they could do other things too.
He launched himself back in the air. He floated silently over the meadow. It wasn’t as dark out here as he feared. He saw little sparks of light everywhere. He floated close to where some glow worms were making a path. He saw some mushrooms on a tree that glowed faintly and slowly he noticed something else making light. The moon started to rise in the east. He landed on an oak at the edge of the meadow. He sat and watched as the moon rose higher and higher in the sky. It was big and full and beautifully bright and white with just the right amount of spots to not be perfect and still feel friendly. He felt it was here just to be a night light for him. He flew up and up and up across her face and then he heard a kind voice in his head.
“Enough, little owl, that’s high enough.”
He stalled in flight. “Whooo was that?”
“Hermes, It’s me, Luna. I’m right in front of you.”
“Luna??? The moon???” the owl hooted.
“Yes, Hermes. Me. The moon.” It was a soft loving voice.
Hermes shivered a bit. “Is it alright for me to fly here?”
“Always, little one. Just don’t fly so high you can’t get back down. I’m always here even if I shrink so small I’m hard to see. I’ll be your night light. Now go!” she said firmly.
Hermes slid back down on the moonbeams until he was back over his meadow.
He felt safer now. He had a night light. Whooo knew? Maybe he was going to be alright after all. He waved at Luna and glided over his meadow. It was time to hunt again.