In Birmingham Art Gallery shop I found a card with a picture called “Owl in the Starry Night”. Immediately I saw it I thought, Pam. And I bought the card. The image is from an oil painting on canvas by artist Sophie Grandvall (2007) which is in The Bridgeman Art Gallery. And this one image made me think how – in any field of creativity – it is never possible for the creator to anticipate the impact their creation might have on those who receive it.
Pam is a friend I first met when we were both aged five, who died of a severe illness seven years ago. She loved owls. They became her symbol, her motif. She surrounded herself with pictures of them, went to see them in bird sanctuaries, bought owl ornaments and owl-themed household objects, and she gave them as gifts too. And when I think of her – intelligent, sweet-natured, generous, full of wit and wisdom, I can identify her with the symbolism of the owl and can understand why she loved them.
During the time of our friendship, Pam was a constant through every season. She was often a reassuring presence in my life. If not for her untimely death she would have been a lifelong friend. When I think about what she meant to me I see her as someone who set my life in perspective: bringing moral and emotional support and a sense of belonging. She met life’s twists and turns with a mischievous humour, giving me the heart to take up the journey afresh.
Now I think how lucky I was to have had a friend like her; and that she was someone whose memory could be brought alive again by an image of an owl in the starry night.