Ghost Owl Rachel Lockwood 6-21st July 2019
Ghost Owl follows the life of a family of Barn owls that bred next to Rachel’s studio in Cley. From their first steps out of the box to first their first flight, Rachel observed and sketched their story. The exhibition comprises oil paintings some of her working drawings.
An unearthly call came from the hidden wild patch of land near the studio and I glimpse the movement of something white like a ghost move silently to the fir trees. Another call pulls me in closer and I see something filling the hole in the owl box.
“The babies are coming!” I shout to our friends in too much excitement. They run towards me as I rush for my telescope. Our heads mimic those of the owlets, spinning and circling to see a view through the tangle of trees. Another owlet pushes out the first one and they clumsily tussle with each other on the small ledge. We’re watching their first glimpse of the world outside their box. Their heads continue to loop, their eyes so wide, seeming mesmerised. A tutu- shaped bodice of fluff still hangs on their bodies and the snap and pluck at each other as they wobble.
The orange evening sunlight catches the midges that have now found us all. We slap at our arms and legs but continue to watch until it is too dark to see. I spend the following summer evening watching the owlets, joined by Brutus our stray cat who wants to get in on the action. We sit in the car eating our meals. A third owlet appears a week later, ‘Baby’, the smallest. ‘Ruff’ plucks at the fluff on Baby’s legs, seeming to nurture their youngest sibling. They comically push each other for space on the ledge; Brutus watches with half-closed eyes.
It was such an experience watching the changes, their first flight to the nearby fir trees, balancing on swaying branches, stretching wings, then finally a flight around the field. The fluff had disappeared and then finally they were gone; we were left wondering if these fragile beautiful creatures had made it – we’ll never know.
As I write, a year later, I’ve heard the first hiss from the box of new youngsters – here we go again.