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  • Mj Pettengill

The Owl Told Me So: Healing


Barred Owl, Mj Pettengill
Barred Owl, Mj Pettengill

For me, last summer was one for the records. Yes, for the world as well. While attempting to be informed and avoiding political theatre and global pandemic rules and regulations, I was bitten by an infected tick and stuck in the mud. Here it is more than eight months later, and I am still healing from the mud injuries. Oh, getting stuck in the mud sounds trivial and actually comedic. I can almost smile when thinking about it—the reason I was there and the thoughts that raced through my head.

The pond has dried up. I can walk across it and gather some elderberries that are usually out of reach.

Within the first few steps, I was quickly sucked into thick, black mud, instantly past my knees and sinking.

So this is what all of the fuss about quicksand was in the old television shows. This is why everyone needs a companion like Lassie.

I broke so many rules. The first was thinking that a pond-bottom that had been in place for possibly hundreds of years would be firm and dry. Looks are deceiving. Then, going after more elderberries when I have access to them in a friendlier, more convenient place on the property. The last broken rule was going there alone. No one would know what happened to me if I slipped into the depths of the black mud.

As I sunk deeper, I discovered that the more I wiggled, the quicker I disappeared. So, the cowboys weren’t kidding. The struggle itself could be deadly. I decided that dying in such a way wasn’t acceptable. By the time the mud was closing in on my thighs, I had no other choice but to twist to the side and pull myself out. I crawled up the embankment, leaving the sole of my shoe behind.

After hosing myself off, I went inside to gather my wits about me. It took a while to get centered. The emotional response to the event masked any injuries sustained at that time.

Another role for me is a wildcraft herbalist. I am used to administering and taking care of myself with plant medicinals that I gather and prepare. When the aches and pains started, I quickly addressed them as I knew how. This is when the stubborn aspect of self rose to the occasion, and I continued to take care of myself for months. It wasn’t until late December that I fully acknowledged that I was not making the progress that I expected. Therefore, I finally sought medical attention. For several weeks, I returned to this facility and had my back re-aligned by an osteopath. It was somewhat helpful, but it wasn’t working. He referred me to a physical therapist. I went once, and early into the session, my intuition was screaming for me to run. In the past, I have become frustrated when I witnessed people ignoring their senses, not paying attention, and blindly following what they are told. Of course, there are experts in the medical profession. Still, the complex itself leans into profits and corporatism, and people may not get optimum results. I will not go there. So, this felt wrong on every level. Within half an hour, surgery was mentioned. This was without any imaging to determine such a dramatic outcome. I came home and faced the choice of stepping into or out of my truth and power. I know so many who have had back surgeries, including re-dos and signing up for another, accepting that it may have helped, but not convinced status. I’m sure there are successes. I am not willing to go under the knife without first accessing my own healing power and working with other professionals who choose a holistic approach. A friend mentioned the name of a physical therapist who uses this method. I set up an appointment to see him. This was two weeks ago. I learned that the injury was not my back but my hips. The force of twisting and pulling myself out of the mud caused both hips to come out of alignment. As a result, there is a pulling down on my spine and surrounding muscles like a rope.

The ensuing pain is not the injury but the result of something else. This aspect of Western medicine is common—isolating symptoms and systems. I learned this in one of my herbalism classes. For example, when people have allergy symptoms and are congested, they may take an antihistamine, alleviating congestion. Still, it does nothing to support the body and address the root cause. The shame of it is that it’s so simple. By supporting and strengthening your liver and filtering systems not to produce histamines when overloaded with various toxins, the symptoms are often alleviated. If you know when your allergies flare up, it helps to tonify your liver and prevent the allergy symptoms. In my practice, this is accomplished with dandelion root, which can be taken in various forms. Other methods are practical as well. This is an example of looking at the body as a whole. I am grateful for the awareness and skills of the physical therapists who are helping me now. I have been fortunate that this is the first such injury for me. I used to brag about having a strong back; coming from a long line of farmers has served me well. Now I have joined the ranks of those who experience back pain. The good news for me is that I am treating my whole body. Through movement and mindfulness, I am strengthening my core. This is a validating experience as I have become more aware of the essence of self-trust and seeking guidance aligned with my being. Some of the aspects of my healing do include plant medicinals, both topical and internal. Also, visualizing a healthy body is vital in assisting the restorative process. I obtained an image of a healthy spine, hips, and knees. This event also caused an injury to one of my knees, so I wore a support and applied various medicinals. The reparative process was a success. I continue to embark on this journey, returning to wholeness. One of the most humbling lessons is about the fragility of the human body. Still, it is balanced out by the miraculous healing capabilities we have within us. Each one of us is a miracle. When I began writing this piece, the many blue jays outside my window sounded the alarm. I have a strong connection with them, and this alert was clear and urgent. I went to the window, and there was a beautiful barred owl on the ground, sitting in the snow, looking at me.


My native culture and traditions have taught me that the barred owl is a messenger, a bringer of wisdom. There are other meanings, but it varies. The blue jays were aggressive and attempted to chase the owl away. It stayed and looked for a bit. Then, with a magnificent display of its gorgeous wingspan, it flew away, over the pond.


I am grateful.

I will prevail.

The owl told me so.