Every so often, while zoning out in front of the picture window, I would hear this sound. It was almost like a horn but it was obviously coming from a creature. Somewhat like a train whistle combined with a long time drinker down on his luck asking “Whoo coooks for yooou?” at dusk. I’d never heard anything like it before and it drove me nuts that I could not identify who it was coming from. Every time I heard it, I would stop and stare hard in the direction it had come from, eyes darting about, hoping to catch movement but I saw nothing.
And then one day I spotted him. It was like those pictures people send around on Facebook where you have to make out a face and if you do in five seconds, your day will be lucky. I never spend time on them because, quite frankly, I don’t need to add that superstition to my list of things to worry about but, when I spotted him, I sure felt lucky. He was tucked in tight on a bare branch near the trunk of the tree deep in the forest, barely visible, staring right at me. At first he was just eyes in a patchy brown face but then he shifted to turn and I saw all of him. Owl, in all his haughty glory.
Once I spotted him, Husband and I looked for him every day. Every time I left the house, I’d look for him as I crept up the driveway to the road. Husband would throw ball with Tigger the Dog and watch the tree line for contact. I would find myself at the dining room window, my eyes darting about until I spotted him tress. He was my ‘Where’s Waldo’ excitement every day. Owl and I, we stared each other for hours, for days on end. He was far enough back that I wasn't a worry. And he was close enough to me that I could watch him and not feel like I was in his way.
A few weeks after I spotted him, we heard him chatting with another Owl, a call and response sort of flirting. “How yooou doooing?” Then we spotted the female as she flew over to sit on a branch near him and continue the date, the two of them hollering back-and-forth in bursts of conversation. A few days of this and then suddenly we witnessed the sweet 5 seconds of lovemaking. Lovemaking that we thought was a fight at first but turned out to be just lovemaking with a lack of foreplay. It was awesome. I was a animal voyeur.
Later we watched them share parenting, tucked in on the nest they’d built in the hollow of a tree just across the road. Owl would skim down and catch a squirrel or chipmunk and fly up to the nest and feed baby. Or Mrs. Owl would perch on a near by branch, taking a moment for herself as she watched the squirrel traffic below. Just before I left town for the summer I got to see baby, all fluffy feathers and eyeballs attempting wobbly flight around our yard.
We didn’t know then that there was more than one baby. I was not here when the two babies, Larry and Moe, gave Husband a once over while sitting on the play structure.
Because Owl wasn’t my first Owl. I had one outside my room in Kenya singing me goodnight. And when I was a teen and my world was an angst-y mess of hormones and hate, I would spend my breaks in the Zoo section of the Junior Museum and Zoo with their Owl. He lived in a large circular cage, exposed to the elements at the front and sheltered at the back. I would sit on a bench in the dark sheltered section, sharing my horrific life woes with Owl through steady eye contact and soft confessional whispers. And Owl would tilt his head, listen and nod, understanding my anxiety and fears, letting me know things would be brighter soon. And after my therapy session with Owl, I would head back to the theatre calmer and with less teenage mean.
Here, Owl - and Mrs. Owl and Larry and Moe - have the same effect. Knowing he’s out there, that they are out there can make even the darkest days light.
The leaves are slowly shifting themselves off the trees and onto the ground. I'm finding myself back at the window waiting and watching. Hoping to catch a glimpse my friend, Owl. The first one to welcome me to this new home.