My habit of staying up late keeps me in touch with the neighborhood owls. I hear the great-horneds calling often, from the cemetary across the street or the black locust tree in our back yard, a favored perch, perhaps, because it's the largest overlooking the farm fields and baseball green that borders our property. I'd imagine there to be lots of critters that fall within earshot of any owl perched in that tree. The screech owl, like this little one here, visits only occasionally and I've never been able to pinpont exactly where the whinny call originates from. Screech owls are tiny and delicate and disappear into the darkness much easier than the great-horneds whose silhouette is hard to mistake, even in the pitch black.
Of the great-horned owl Mary Oliver writes: "I know this bird. If it could, it would eat the whole world. In the night, when the owl is less than exquisitely swift and perfect, the scream of the rabbit is terrible. But the scream of the owl, which is not of pain and hopelessness and the fear of being plucked out of the world, but of the sheer rollicking glory of the death-bringer, is more terrible still. When I hear it resounding through the woods... I know I am standing at the very edge of the mystery, in which terror is naturally and abundantly part of life, part even of the most becalmed, intelligent, sunny life... The world where the owl is endlessly hungry and endlessly on the hunt is the world in which I live too. There is only one world."
I had an experience at work today that made me feel guilty for my happy and peaceful life and for delighting in simple things. Most days in the field visiting clients are that way, to some extent but, my God, some people just have so much awfulness heaped upon them. I walk in and out of their lives and their homes, have them fill out a bunch of silly papers, and then go back to my life of plenty. Yet, I'm collecting their stories in some part of me, so many sad stories that I can almost begin to imagine the same terrible circumstances on the periphery of my own life, just waiting for the chance to descend like an owl in the darkness. The recognition of that possibility, acknowledging the unmistakable shape in the pitch dark or the ability to see the little hunter hidden among the pine boughs... I'm not sure what that means. I wonder if it serves any purpose in my life or if it makes me any better at the work I do with clients. Maybe I'm just thinking too much or paying too much attention to stories and screams in the dark.
Owl pics are education birds from the Avian Wildlife Center who gave a children's program tonight at our monthly Audubon meeting.
a return Visit
10 months ago