I love to walk and hike. It’s been my form of exercise since I was young. When I was in my early 30s, I was taking a walk on a rail-trail that I walked every day. It was about 4 p.m. with plenty of sunlight when out of nowhere, an enormous owl  swooped down near me. It landed on a branch right above the trail in front of me. I had never seen anything like it in all my hikes.

The next day, I mentioned the sighting to a friend. She said, “Oh! An owl means you’re going to have a baby!”

I was in shock because my then-husband and I were trying to get pregnant.


My dad lived in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. Somehow, in retirement, he became the hippie he never got to be in the 60s. I knew he was doing some interesting things with Native American culture: Smoke circles, totems, and such. I gave him a call and asked him what it meant to see an owl.

“An owl? Well, for those who believe in totems, an owl is a powerful totem. It is a messenger and often one of death. But not in the way people think of death. It means your life is about to change so significantly that there is death to your old life and a new life ahead.”

Then he added, “But for you? You just saw an owl,” dismissing my sighting.

I didn’t tell him I was trying to get pregnant. Instead, I went to the pharmacy and picked up a pregnancy test. Sure enough, I was pregnant!

Eventually, when I told my dad I was having a baby, I reminded him of the owl. He proceeded to tell me stories of his own encounters with owls, claiming it was his totem. 

He had experienced three unusual owl occurrences in his lifetime, and following each one was a significant change in his life. “Who knows, maybe your totem is an owl but probably not.”

The story continues

A few years later, after the birth of my second child, I was finding myself struggling in my marriage. I was extremely unhappy and had realized I had been for years. It was as if my children came along, and I finally realized what life was and that I didn’t want it with my husband. I was contemplating divorce.

One day, I was writing a story about unusual spa therapies and was booked to experience a massage that would invoke my chakras and bring me insight. I didn’t have any expectations; I was simply getting a massage. My masseuse explained to me throughout the process that I would begin to see colors. 

I would move from color to color as my body reached different parts of my journey. I was skeptical and yet found myself seeing reds and eventually blues. 

The masseuse continued to speak to me throughout the process, putting me into a meditative state. He warned I would see visions. Near the end of my massage, my vision was clear as day: Big, yellow owl eyes. I jolted with the image, and the masseuse stopped. 

Had I seen something? He asked. I shook it off and let him continue, but as he was speaking about visions and receiving the messages they provide, I could think about my husband and how much I wanted to leave him.

At the end of the treatment, he asked again about my vision, and I told him what I had seen. He took a deep breath and started to tell me about owls and death. I interrupted him and said I knew what the owl meant and told him my story with the first owl. “I think your dad is wrong. I think the owl may be your totem,” he said. “Owls have excellent vision and are a sign of wisdom. Listen to your messenger; it can see where you can’t.”

I went home and sat in my office to write the story, but I couldn’t write. I couldn’t stop thinking about leaving my husband. I sat back in my chair, looked out the window, and saw a small owl sitting on the sapling we had planted in our yard. I couldn’t believe it. And no one would believe it if I told them it was an owl who helped me walk away from an unhappy marriage.

A year later, I had left my husband and moved 500 miles away to start a new life. I was living in a new area, madly in love with a man who wasn’t so sure about becoming a stepdad, and struggling financially following the divorce because my ex was so angry about my leaving he made a point to “bury me financially.” 

I applied for a job at TripAdvisor to become an editor of a new travel website for families. The company was based in N.J., but TripAdvisor’s headquarters are in Massachusetts, where I was living. I was sure I could work in the HQ, but it turned out they wanted me to move.

I turned down the job. I had just moved my young children once, and I didn’t want to move them again so soon. Plus, I wanted to work on my new relationship. They told me to think about it saying I was the perfect person for the job. The official offer and paperwork they had given me sat on my kitchen counter for a month. I didn’t know what to do.

One day, my dad called. “Have you seen any owls?” he asked. “What?!” “Have you seen any owls? I’m getting messages that you aren’t paying attention to your messages.”

I was so frustrated by it all. “Dad, why don’t you just tell me the message and make this easier on me? I don’t do any of this totem stuff!”

“I can’t relay messages to you. It doesn’t work that way. Only you can receive the message. Look for an owl.”

I let another month go by and never saw an owl but decided to walk away from my relationship and move my children again to take the job. (The best decision I ever made as we spent eight years traveling around the world together!) 

I was having lunch with some of my coworkers and decided to share my stories of the owls when one of them asked me, “You had the offer letter sitting on your kitchen counter all that time?”

“Yes? Why?”

“Lissa, TripAdvisor’s logo is an owl’s eyes.”

My dad had been right; the owl had been there all along.

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About Lissa Poirot

Lissa Poirot is an award-winning lifestyle writer who covers health, wellness and travel. Her work has appeared on websites such as WebMD, FamilyVacationCritic and the New York Times, as well as print in magazines including Vegetarian Times and Arthritis Today.

View all posts by Lissa Poirot