One of my backyard Great Horned Owls was calling yesterday morning in the pre-dawn time as I rushed around getting ready for work. Those deep hooting calls have the power to make me stop whatever I’m doing, grab my children and rush into the backyard to look for the beautiful bird silhouetted against the barely brightening sky; its great size and ear tufts outlined above the top of the oak tree. There’s an almost spiritual moment in the few seconds of shared observation between the bird and us, before it launches itself with broad wings into the deeper woods. Then we go back inside to finish our rushing around, busying ourselves with an ordinary day.
If the Owl Calls Again
at dusk from the island in the river, and it’s not too cold, I’ll wait for the moon to rise, then take wing and glide to meet him. We will not speak, but hooded against the frost soar above the alder flats, searching with tawny eyes. And then we’ll sit in the shadowy spruce and pick the bones of careless mice, while the long moon drifts toward Asia and the river mutters in its icy bed. And when the morning climbs the limbs we’ll part without a sound, fulfilled, floating homeward as the cold world awakens.
by John Haines