Every person has a worldview and every worldview is a story. The Christian story is simply better, and to borrow a pet phrase from Henry Kissinger, “it has the added advantage of being true.” The Owlings is a worldview adventure for readers young and old alike about a young boy named Josiah who discovered an important lesson from some unlikely visitors. Get ready to meet Gilbert, a talking owl, who is joined by three of his friends to explain the glory of the universe.
Josiah sat at his window like he did almost every evening. What was he doing, you ask? Well, that’s a good question. He’s thinking. And this is his thinking spot.
On this night, Josiah wished the owls could actually talk instead of merely saying “who, who” over and over again. He’s always felt as though their calls kept him company as he sits at his window thinking. But tonight it would be great if they could actually share a conversation. They are, after all, supposed to be really wise.
Sometimes thinking is better when you actually have someone to think with; someone to talk to. It’s especially helpful when you have those big questions that make it hard to go to sleep.
And on this night Josiah had a lot of questions.
An interesting thing happened in his science class today. His normal teacher just had a baby and would be out for a while, so they had a new substitute teacher named Sam. Most of the teachers at Josiah’s school had you call them by their last name, but not Sam. He was really nice, but Josiah wasn’t quite sure what to think about some of the things he said in classroom.
Sam started the class today by writing the following words on the chalkboard: “Everything was created by nature.”
A student raised her hand and asked, “You mean everything?”
“That’s right,” Sam said. “Nature is all that has or ever will exist. So, everything comes from nature.”
“Does that make sense to you?” Sam asked her.
“I’m not sure,” she said.
“Alright, let me try to explain. Everything we see came from nature, even humans. Nature made everything there is.”
“But I came from my mom,” she quickly responded.
“That’s right. But you have to track it all the way to the beginning of time. Your mom came from her mom, and her mom came from her mom. But long ago, before there were humans, nature just moved along slowly until human beings were born. Nature created everything. It is all that exists, so everything comes from it.”
“So nature is my great, great, great, great grandparent?” another student blurted out with a bit of a laugh, to which Sam reminded the class that they need to wait their turn before they speak in class.
This has always been a funny rule to Josiah. You never see adults raising their hands in adult conversations to see who gets to go next, he thought to himself.
Sam spent the rest of the hour explaining why people like to think there is something outside of nature. “We want there to be more than nature. Some people like to think that things like fairytales or gods are real,” Sam said, “but there simply isn’t anything outside of nature. And the more we understand this, the more we will learn to love nature for what it is.”
Josiah wasn’t sure this statement was true. He liked the idea that there was something more, and yet he still loved nature. He didn’t really feel like he had to make a choice between the two.
Alton, the boy who sits next to Josiah, raised his hand and asked a good question, “If there is nothing outside of nature, then where did nature come from?”
Sam tried to help Alton understand how nature had created itself, which seemed quite confusing to everyone in class, including Josiah. But the bell rang before anyone else could assault the substitute teacher with more questions, and for young students there are few things that distract their attention more than the final bell at the school day.
Now, here at the end of the day, Josiah sits, looking out of his window, with the country sounds of the night cooing him to sleep. He wonders if his teacher is right, if nature really is all there is. With questions about nature, and wishful thinking about owls, he closes his eyes and rests his head to one side in the crook of his arm that is still draped across the windowsill.
And this is where our story really begins.
Peck. Peck. Peck.
Josiah abruptly awoke as his arm slipped down to the floor and his head landed with a thud on the frame of the open window. Rubbing his forehead, he looked up to see an owl perched on a tree limb, only inches away from his bedroom window. An owl had never come this close to Josiah before. He quit rubbing his head and started rubbing his eyes. Something seemed really odd about this owl.
The owl was wearing clothes, and not just any clothes, he was wearing some sort of dark dress coat that looked like a cape. He had a tweed vest on over a dress shirt with a funny looking necktie. An eyepiece sat above his beak, covering one eye, with a little gold chain draped down to the side of his head. He was leaning slightly to his left side and seemed to support his weight on a small wooden cane, which had a brass ring at the top of it.
“How do you do?” The owl said with an odd accent.
Josiah, still rubbing his eyes, quickly crawled backwards away from the window. “This can’t be real. This can’t be …” he said out loud to himself.
“All right?” the owl interrupted.
“Wh … Wha … What?” Josiah said with a shaky voice that had just a hint of excited curiosity.
“Are you all right, lad? The name’s Gilbert. Delighted to finally make your acquaintance.” The owl clumsily extended his wing as if to shake Josiah’s hand. I say clumsily because when he did this, he lost the grip on his cane and it fell to the ground below.
Josiah didn’t know what to think. Owls aren’t supposed to talk. It’s impossible! He must be dreaming, he thought to himself. And with that last thought, his head became flushed and a crooked smile came over his face. The last thing he remembered the next morning was falling backwards onto his bed.
Excerpt from Dan DeWitt’s The Owlings (Theolatte Press 2014, $10.99). For more information about Dan DeWitt’s self-published novella, go to TheOwlings.org.