Come to the window and listen. All is dark and silent outside as I open it to let in the night air. The neighbor’s yippy dog has been called inside to his bed. Even the kids down the road have used up all their fireworks from New Year’s. With the lights from the houses turned off and the emptiness of the road, can you feel that sudden shift in the silence? The wind dies down and even the cottonwoods are mute. And then, low and expectant comes ” hoo-hoodoo-hoooo-hoo” from deep in the backwoods. And an echoing answer near the pond. The two great horned owls call back and forth to each other across the river bottom. It sounds as if the first owl is near the old tree-house.
There once was another owl there who used to roost on the top of the ladder, swooping menacingly toward anyone who ventured too near. He left my boys a rich cache of owl pellets on the ground below. One of our favorite activities was to collect them and then pick them apart, separating out and sorting the skulls and scapulas, the leg bones and back bones of the owl’s latest meal. Each pellet told a story of a mouse or vole or small bird suddenly being overshadowed by the owl’s silent wings, the grip of fierce talons and another successful hunt for the owl.
I read my children Leslie Marmon Silko’s story “The Skeleton Fixer” from her book Storyteller. In it, Old Man Badger goes out each day into the desert and collects bones. Then he brings them home, painstakingly reassembles them and breathes life into the skeleton of whatever he has put together. I would like to do the same for you. I will go out into the backwoods and beyond, collect the bones of observation and experience and put them together on the pages of this blog. Then you, my reader will breathe the life of you own insights into them, bringing them alive in you mind’s eye. As Old Man Badger says, “It is surprising sometimes how these things turn out.” We might find ourselves with a deadly snake ready to strike with nature’s destructive force. Or we might discover a hawk who’s wings of flight lift us above our everyday lives.
Even the owls are silent now. The nearly full moon casts pale shadows on the snowless ground. The great horned owls here usually don’t start nesting until February. Can it be that our unseasonably warm winter has stirred their desires so early? Or were they simply calling out to see who might be there? I hope that you will call out as well, sharing your own experiences, so that together we might create a web of connections that just might catch some of the wisdom inherent in the natural world.
To find out more about owl pellets go to: www.owlpages.com/articles.php?section=Owl+Physiology&title…
If you don’t live near owl roosting places you can order owl pellets to dissect from a number of biology supply companies on the internet.