The tawny owl who comments on topics of spatial reality from a low branch of the redwood tree that grows near my back door returned from one of the short trips he takes several times a year to hunting grounds in the Santa Lucia foothills near Big Sur, where dumb bunnies can be nabbed with hardly any effort at all. It’s not that the mice and voles that frequent the hills above Monterey Bay are not tasty, but he maintains that ingesting some pizzazz on a regular basis elongates his elliptical sensations and contributes to his transcendental arcs.
“Good, complex taste is not merely what’s on the tip of the tongue,” he declares. “That’s like so, duh.”
The owl was not exactly fat when he came back, but close enough, and happy about it. His feathers were puffed up like spectral queens and his aura had that silky glow. You just know he had himself a whale of a time. Whales are just about the only animals who cannot fly that he consistently respects. Especially humpbacks.
It’s always a good day for me, although not necessary an uncomplicated one, when he returns. He usually has little to say at first but oozes a distinctive gravitas that gets to me. He provides, not what I would call wisdom exactly, which he considers only one tiny part of an integrated whole of multi-faceted dimensions beyond my ability to comprehend, but much needed width, tone, and depth.
I have to admit that some of his more accurately observed barbs can be painful to endure. I realize it’s not easy for him to encounter nothing but fools lightly. Even I can understand that. But, still.
Fortunately, though, he was in a good mood today. That meant he observed the splendor of the concurrent waves spinning throughout our neighborhood in rapt beatitude, without rancorous comment.
In general, the owl has little regard for the abilities of posturing bipeds, especially humans. “Too straight, too rigid, too bumbling,” he points out. “Can barely move without falling over and breaking down. Can’t hear what’s all around, and can’t see for shit. Name one other animal who steps in so much of his own. Name another animal that is so afraid so much of the time.”
It’s hard to argue with a tautology, for obvious reasons, so I don’t try. I nod my head, and practice breathing. I try not to fake it. There’s no need to push too hard.
“What else is there to do when you’re stuck on the ground except play with toys in the dirt,” he asks sensibly? “Might as well get used to it. When you can’t flow, you can’t get nowhere, man. Flowing is different from flying, but close. Any simple minded sparrow knows that. Any silly swallow, any irascible blue jay, any unthinking goose.”
The owl reserves a special measure of disdain for the techno-yuppie numerologist who lives next door to me, a small man with a large scowl on his pinkish face who commutes to Silicon Valley five days a week starting out at 7 AM and poisons plants the other two days of the week starting at 8 AM. The man consistently generates an Andes sized mountain of trash each week to haul along with the full spectrum of his recyclables. Every Thursday, the owl rotates his head a full 270 degrees in disgust. The man claims mightily to know his special place in the world, at the top according to some eerie divine fiat, along with his God, who looks suspiciously like him.
I certainly am not trying to exclude myself from any group or groups that so deservedly earn the scorn of the owl. We agree on several of his more obvious conclusions, including the roles of sex, governments, religions, sagas, super heroes, hunger, histrionics, revenge,and obesity among bipeds with eyes in the front of their heads, but I think the owl only tolerates me as entertainment, if not a downright joke.
I’m not complaining, however. If it sounds that way, that must be just one more example of a merely human inability to communicate on a higher level by utilizing nothing better than silly words. I have learned to appreciate the position of the owl from above, looking down on me, as I try to look upon myself, and I’m grateful for the perspective he provides.
“After all,” he has said frequently, “There’s not a lot to be said for a creature who can’t even hoot.”
I used to try very hard in the beginning of our acquaintance to hoot back at him but it became embarrassing for both of us.
A big brain, he reminds me often, is useless when it starts out from a wrong headed premise. Logically, from there, it only gets worse.
It’s sometimes better to just listen, and shut up, even if it’s not easy to hear. Even I know that.