Every other photo of Carla, my fiancée who died 11 years ago today, shows her with some kind of animal.
This is no exaggeration.
Carla with a horse.
Carla with a cow.
Carla with a cat.
Carla with a camel.
Carla with a llama.
Carla (and I am not making this up) sitting on a bench with a lion cub. She was a young girl and the photo was taken somewhere when she was traveling overseas.
And then there are two Polaroid photos — taken years apart — of Carla that might be my favorites of all.
In one of them, taken before we met, she has a pixie haircut and round, Harry Potter-like sunglasses.
Those glasses are somehow appropriate because, like Harry Potter, who had an owl named Hedwig, Carla is holding an owl.
It has big black round eyes that nicely complement her sunglasses.
Flash forward a number of years to 2000, and here is another photo of Carla with another owl – this one taller and even more regal looking than the other.
The photo was taken at the Great American Weekend Fourth of July festivities in Goshen, N.Y.
The owl has talons like hooks of steel and a beak to match.
What I remember most about this photo was Carla saying how the owl liked her.
It reaaaallly liked her.
It moved its body so it was pressed right up against her cheek.
I remember her saying to me later that the owl’s sheer size and sharp talons made her careful not to move suddenly.
You can see she is smiling just a tad uncomfortably as she looks into the camera.
That same day in 2000 a Polaroid of me (with my own round-shaped glasses) was snapped with a hawk perched on my leather-gloved hand.
These photos were stowed away long ago and largely forgotten about — that is until recently when I was clearing out many files and drawers in preparation for a major house project.
Here’s the weird part: I found these photos a day after spotting a hawk perched outside our window.
We’ve lived in the woods of the Poconos for nearly 13 years and have seen every kind of wildlife: Bears, deer, possum, skunks, fox, wild turkeys, etc.
But this was the first time ever that I saw a hawk so close, much less in a tree branch right outside of our window.
Carla was a strong-willed person who had a way of making her presence known and felt.
Maybe this hawk visitor was her spirit animal checking up on me.
Maybe it was her way of signaling to me that she’s OK.
Maybe this was simply a coincidence – seeing the hawk and then the next day finding the photos after 17 years.
Whatever the explanation, the back-to-back discoveries brought me a measure of comfort.