The Capture by Kathryn Lasky is an epic tale in which most of the characters are owls. One of these is a spotted owl named Hortense.
Hortense is a wonderful little owl with crippled wings. She does not permit her weakness to diminish her greatness; instead, she bolsters her courage to infiltrate the enemy territory. The enemy is an army of evil owls that steals eggs and hatchlings from the neighboring owl kingdoms and brainwashes them to multiply its numbers. Hortense gains the trust of the enemy owls and gains a position guarding stolen eggs. Hortense sets an egg aside every now and then, and an ally eagle swoops down to rescue the stolen egg. She is responsible for the rescue of over 20 eggs. When the enemy discovers Hortense’s true purpose, they push her off a cliff to her death. Even during a time of great personal danger, Hortense screams at the eagle to forget her and save the egg. Hortense was willing to sacrifice everything to protect her Kingdom.
What are we willing to sacrifice for our Kingdom? What is our Kingdom? I think that is different for everyone. I’ve seen people with unhealthy levels of patriotism that lead to feelings of superiority over people of other nationalities. I’ve seen others who only cared for themselves and their personal gain. Others still have a more global perception of their Kingdom. My Kingdom is primarily my family. I think I would sacrifice my life for them. I’m as certain of that as I can be without ever experiencing a moment even remotely close to the actual decision to give my life for them.
I’m reminded of a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland in which he said it was easier to die for a cause than to truly live for it. I think I’m living for my family. I work to support them, but I don’t work in excess. We spend time reading and playing together. I try to facilitate good discussion with them about life, scripture, classics, their interests and goals, etc. I think I’m living for them. I also think I could do better.
I feel a sense of peace that my desire to do better hasn’t strayed into the self-depreciating criticism I often wield against myself during moments of introspection. I think that has a lot to do with how much I have grown over the last 9 years and the recognition that a huge part of that change is the influence of having a bunch of Mini-Me’s mucking about mimicking their dad. It serves as a natural magnifying glass held against my moral character. It’s not easy to look at one’s weaknesses, but it is important. It is helpful to also see one’s talents, but that’s not enough.
Hortense’s ultimate weakness was her underdeveloped wings. Her courageous heart wasn’t enough to compensate for that weakness in the end. I hope I can keep improving and overcoming my weaknesses before the adversary gets a chance to nudge me off of a cliff. Until then, I hope my heart is courageous enough to allow me to strive for, and hopefully reach some extent of greatness.