Thursday, June 25, 2009

Owl Things Rise and Fowl

The owls are back. The first time I saw them they flew delicately and silently around my head, literally in my hair, after I barged into their dormitory. It took me a minute to realize they were not bats, but my wide-eyed visitors. Their mastery of the air impressed me. They did not seem to mind at all the close space of my outdoor storage ramada and moved through it like dancers – cutting tight turns, pirouetting, climbing, stalling as they settled onto a comfortable perch suitably distanced from the clumsy interloper. I apologized and retreated. 

All three of them are here. Up close they are petite, tiny, fragile. They perch on my hanging bike wheel, my chainsaw case, a section of copper pipe, and they defecate on the tires, frame, toolbox, plastic storage organizers. I don’t mind, but also see some of the perfection of that. They show me my priorities. I would rather have a wild owl living in proximity than a clean bike, even though I am a bikophile.

Where do they come from, these beautiful little western screech owls? Last year they appeared and roosted in Kyle’s book shelf on the porch, as if they could sense someone in trouble, tormented, and were there to add an archetypal touch to the melancholy scene. 

When I see them in the morning, they are resting, their eyes half closed, like they are looking over a pair of reading glasses at an annoying student. I like to think that my talking to them as I put in laundry keeps them calm, that I won’t disturb their siesta. I hope they are accustomed enough to my interruptions that they will not fly away to a more remote roost. I want to check on them, the way I used to check on the chickens before the bobcat took them. 

I prefer the owls. As a lazy farmer I would rather not feed my flock, but am glad to provide wild fowl with a coop. A bird raiser by chance, an owl cultivator, a gardener of wild things, a witness to a world as far beyond my control as it is hungry for life.