The story behind this wise night owl artwork starts with a herd of deer.
It’s May 2018 and I’m walking my dog in Richmond Park. It’s getting dark by the time we’re ready to leave and just in time, I notice a large herd of deer have gathered up ahead blocking my route out. It’s baby season and not wise to go near the deer at this time so I take my dog into the woods and we find a route that bypasses the deer.
We emerge at the right place, the herd is now about a hundred and fifty meters behind us. There’s a solitary deer munching away ahead in the trees to the right and she sees us but isn’t bothered so I’m happy she’s not connected to the heard.
Unfortunately I’m wrong.
I pass her and she starts following me. When I stop, she stops. I move, she moves. It’s creepy.
My dog is tired and hasn’t noticed her yet but then she starts trotting towards me and he gets excited and starts pulling. I drag him and run to hide behind the nearest tree, which also happens to be the last tree at the edge of the woods before a large open space. She takes up position on the other side of the tree like she’s trapped a prisoner and my dog’s mewing and wants to play with her.
I calm both him and me down and decide to wait her out. Finally, half an hour later, she shuffles away to eat something. I give her minute and try to tip-toe away but she sees me and comes running back. This time, she must have sent out a signal because the next thing I know, I’m circled by about fifty or sixty deer all looking at me and I’m wondering if deer charge people like bulls.
I called the police and the policeman laughed and said I needed the RSPCA and put me through. The RSPCA said they only help animals, not humans, and I should call the police. I called the police again and this time I got someone nice who promised he’d send rescue.
While I’m waiting with my heart thumping away at the bizarre situation, I realise that the deer ignore me if I stay still. They just don’t want me moving. My dog is being good and taking his cues from me which is another reason not to panic.
In fact, although I’m alert and tense, I’m starting to notice how peaceful and scenic it all is. The gates are closed so there’s no sound of cars, or anything at all really. The deer are very quiet animals and I only hear the odd shuffle as they graze. I can smell the earth and the plants in a way you don’t notice when your ears are distracted by everyday noise. I’ve rarely been in the woods this late in the evening and there’s a fairytale quality in the silence.
This is when I hear a rustle overhead and a few seconds later, something lands near me. It’s an owl!
Owls and elephants are my favourite animals and maybe because of this it feels special, like it landed there for a reason. I’ve never seen a real live owl before and it fits right into this fairytale scene and I get a sense of their rightful place in mythology.
The rescue car arrived an hour after my phonecall and to this day, when I think about the night the deer held me prisoner, it’s like it happened so I could see the owl.
In mythology, owls represent wisdom and helpfulness, and have powers of prophecy.
That night, it wasn’t hard to see why.
Purchase the Wise Night Owl
This artwork is available to buy on a range of products including mugs, gym bags, and aprons: