May 2, 2008

If our family had a totem, I'm guessing it would be an owl. Joe is a birder from his college days. Think of the effect that has on a young woman. A handsome young man who likes to sit very still in all kinds of woods for all kinds of hours. Then likes to go home and pour over books and reminisce about what's been seen. Oh, do be still my heart! So from the time we were dating, we've been tromping around outside after birds. If you are outside, you are bound to encounter owls. Some folks go "owling" but we don't. That's a serious specialty, as owls do most of their living and moving at night.

Once, on a hot date, we got up at 4am. We drove down to Jordan Lake in search of ospreys, water birds, and hopefully a bald eagle. We parked and headed down a Very Dark Path. (This would be one of a few exceptional moments in my dating career where it did flash through my mind that, perhaps, I wasn't the wisest girl.) The setting was pretty creepy. We were outside, in the middle of No Where, in the middle of the night. So here I go, la la la, after a man I think I love, down a Very Dark Path, in the middle of No Where, when an owl SCREAMED over our heads. Hear me now. OVER our heads. Like about 6 inches over our heads. I think it must have been a Great Horned Owl. I've never heard the like. I almost peed on myself. I nearly dissolved into my boots. I can't really tell you how loud and freakish and scary and cool it was. And otherworldly and it might have been a ring wraith but we're pretty sure it was an owl. We saw no eagles that day. (Driving home over the levee, an osprey hovered outside the car window. He was at our speed and managed to hover, incidentally, right outside the window. You aren't going to see that everyday.)

We dated more and married and had other lovely owlish experiences. We lucked into silhouettes and heard them calling through many nights. A friend called one wintry night to say there was a screecher in the wood shed, "come see."

The children were born and close together. So those early years were hectic. Joe would put baby Ry in a snugly and walk her into the twilight so I could have a few moments alone with Henry for bedtime. It must have been a fall evening. I remember seeing them off down the dirt road as I turned back to read to Henry. Joe said they were happily along until a barred owl called from a nearby tree. Scared our baby girl so bad she jumped and cried, not to be consoled fully until she was back nursing safely inside. She was prey and she knew it. "Save me, Daddy, from those bad Ayols." We heard it in her cry.

The children used to make an owl's nest upstairs and spent a lot of time there. One was a baby owl named Whotech, the other was Otech. We never knew which was which. Owls are like that, tricksy.

One Texas Valentines Day a barn owl stepped out of a cedar tree, not but a couple of feet above us, to watch our family pass. The children saw him plainly with his creamy heart shaped face emerging from the dark feathery green cedar.

Two weeks ago Ry said, "We just passed an owl. Can we go back to see?" Weary disbelieving mother sighed and did a three point turn in the road thinking, "of course it was a knotty tree. And were it an owl it would be long gone." But no, right here at eye level, on a branch by the road, in the fine morning air was a barred owl. Just sitting for us to watch. We stayed there several minutes. "You have good eyes, girl."

We have the windows open savoring 50 degree nights with fresh spring air. The barred owls are active now and Monkey Calling. Its thought they do this to establish mating territory. It is crazy wild for sure. I've heard as many as 4 or 5 circling in the dark. Lovely and wondrous to hear.

So this morning Joe moved in the dark toward coffee downstairs as I heard a barred owl hoot. Then it hooted some more. Without moving from my nest, I sniffed my nose out the window and turned to look. There is a field across the street. Owls like fields. Could I see it? But no, leaves everywhere. As I stare I hear it hoot again. And then yonder, a screech owl, just once and very shivery. "Hoot?! Whoooo dares enter my territory? HOOT?!" Oh my, then a Great Khafuffle! Hooting and khafuffling and crashing in the middle tree tops and then silence. We won't know exactly what happened. Joe points out, silent as owls are when they fly, a screech owl would most likely hear a barred owl coming. I hope it escaped.

An owl sink from High Owly Decorum to make actual sound as it moved? They Do Not Do That. It Simply Isn't Done. Must have been a real emergency. Maybe a young female was near, sizing up a young male who likes to watch humans. Maybe he was trying to impress her. Its spring and love can make, even the owls, crazy like that.


Maria said...

Oh...I love this post. Nostalgic, memories, wooded dark nights...mysterious and hooting owls..revered..healthy totem. Cool.

I think our family totem is ice cream. OH. Wait. Does a totem technically have to be a living creature?

MOM #1 said...

Thanks for taking us a little skip down memory lane with you. OH, that owl sounds crazy scary!