The White Owl

Stephen Trussel

Fairbanks, Alaska is one of the coldest places in the world in winter. The snow starts to fall in early Autumn, and the days grow shorter and shorter as December approaches. The temperature drops, and people spend more and more time indoors. Even at noon, it is like sunset. It becomes a mysterious place, very peaceful and beautiful.

One winter, I was working at a company a few miles outside of town. I usually drove to work at about 6:00 AM, on a narrow road which was always empty. It passed through open fields, and by frozen ponds, everything painted white. Snow-covered bushes and trees became creatures of another planet in my sleepy mind.

On a morning like most others, as I was driving slowly through the dreamy landscape, I sensed something moving near the car. I turned my head, expecting to see a familiar animal. Instead, I was startled to discover a giant white bird flying silently a few feet from the car. It was a great snowy owl, something I had only seen in books, hardly moving its wide wings at all to keep up with me. Although it was bitter cold, I opened my window to see more clearly, and slowed down even more.

I held my breath, hoping he would stay. And for a mile or so, he did, perhaps as happy as I was to find someone to share the way. Together we traveled my morning path. The ghost-like bird flew exactly even with my window, gliding silently through the still air, making no sound. For that brief moment, time stood still, and we were companions. Then we reached a railroad crossing, and he turned to follow the tracks. I stopped to watch him disappear into the distance. Every morning after that I waited hopefully, but we never met again.