It started out a sunny afternoon in Manhattan when we spotted it, Lenny and I, a snow-white refugee from the Arctic.
Lenny was my husband then, a big bear of a man with an Alphabet City accent and a laugh that lifted people off their feet.
We were across the street from our apartment building, volunteering. SAGE, a gay senior support organization, was sponsoring a dance at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
We helped set up, decorating the large room with Thanksgiving bounty as the band unpacked.
Later, we drank spiked punch and danced. Formal dancing. We waltzed, tangoed, and two stepped. Several old gents and a couple old dames cut in to sweep me out of Lenny's arms.
Tired out, I found myself by a large plate glass window overlooking a courtyard dotted with small fir trees.
The bright afternoon sun blinked out with no warning as inky clouds raced in. A sudden snow squall kicked up. I watched flakes coat the firs as if it were almost Christmas instead of almost Thanksgiving.
Frank Sinatra crooned over the sound system. I remember that clearly.
A tiny flutter caught my eye. A dash of pale, not quite as bright as the snow, came streaking through the thick flakes.
It tumbled to a stop on the very top of the tiny tree just on the other side of the glass. Eyes blinked at me. A head cocked.
I had to blink, myself, to understand.
Right there in front of me on top of a living Christmas tree flocked with snow, perched a tiny, perfect white owl.
“Lenny!” I hissed across the room. “Come see! Get over here!”
Soon, a dozen of us stood at that window watching the snow fall thick and fast, watching the little white owl watch us back.
He perched on that shoulder-high tree, inches from us, for a good thirty minutes, head tilting back and forth, so perfect, so delicate.
He streaked away as suddenly as he'd arrived, and with as little warning. One moment he was there, the next, high in the sky, disappearing into the white.
We all let out a sigh as we remembered where we were.
I learned later that these tiny owls are native to the Arctic. Every few years, one of them makes an appearance further south on the Eastern Seaboard. Nobody knows how or why.
Lenny and I spoke often of the magic of that moment. The pristine beauty. The mystery.
Years later, I walked across the street with some of Lenny's ashes in a ziplock bag.
I entered that courtyard, found that exact little tree, and sprinkled a bit of Lenny around its roots.
I hope that one day, a tiny snowy owl will once again pause there for a rest on his way to whatever mysterious mission beckons.