There are few sounds that pull at you like an owl’s cry.
A few days ago, I was up in the early morning, freeing a spider from my room (the mosquito season is over: normally I’d leave a spider where it was, but it wouldn’t take long to starve). I tipped the end of my V-bent magazine over the bushes, and the spider slid down onto a leaf and scurried away. Only the third of the garden nearest the house was visible in the dim wash of CFL light from the kitchen.
CoooWEEE coWEEE. Co-hohohHOHHHHWwww.
It was in the tree above the gazebo. I went back inside, pulled on a fleece jacket, jammed my hands as far into my pockets as physics would allow, and walked out to the edge of the darkness, filling my eyes with it.
I love the dark; heavily influenced by an essay by Kathleen Jamie in her book Findings (but read the full piece here, courtesy of the Guardian). Darkness is like the world laying back with a contented sigh after the eye-wearying adolescent tumult of the day – and it’s such a shame that we spend so much of our time fighting it off with electricity, instead of learning to enjoy it (not something that comes naturally to us, nowadays).
After ten minutes, I could make out the owl. It was the same size as my thumb at arm’s length, an inkier blot against what seemed to be total darkness, were it not for the owl. I could see its head occasionally turning (the mouse police never sleeps). The more I watched, the more I could hear the hiss of the night….and when it called again….
it was as jarring as slicing my finger on a tin lid, going right through me.
Up close, the call of an owl is a shrill, angry thing. From afar, it becomes unbearably poignant, dragging sad memories from you and parading them across your unwilling mind, what-ifs and why-didn’t-Is. You could get to a lot of deep hurt if you were listening to an owl at exactly the right distance – and I got a glimpse of that, in the garden, before I got too cold and shivered and coughed, and the owl started and took to the air, leaving the branch waving and bobbing as I went back indoors, shutting off the light and disappearing back into the oblivion of my normal evening.