I was up to my ankles and elbows in good clean organic dirt, my home environment on a regular basis according to the many snide pronouncements of the tawny owl, digging several feet down on a cool day in March. I was not digging just to be digging, though, no way. I like good old cool dirt as much as the next regular guy but there are limits. Ultimately, I was aiming via the trumpet vines in three shades of red that I was preparing to plant, along with the columbine that was more mauvish in tone, closely resembling on the eternal color wheel the hairless hue of a post-pubescent freshman in pre-puking stage, to attract hummingbirds. Plain and simple, there can never be too many hummingbirds, in my opinion. Just think about the treasures hummingbirds offer compared to what they take. Can you honestly say the same? No need to answer. Or start the wheels spinning into any initial stages of denial. Although the tawny owl refuses to speak the word, ‘never’, or hardly ever, even he would have to agree with that.
Then just like that the tawny owl appeared on the low branch of an oak tree at the edge of the forest. It had been a long time, too long.
I asked, with hope, yet trepidation, “Are you back?”
He observed me with his larger and his smaller eye orbiting sequentially in motion, not a believer in the existence of symmetry, or the possibility thereof, and he rotated his neck less than ninety degrees, which for him was hardly at all, though it was plenty more than enough for me.
I said, “I know you don’t have to answer that.”
He didn’t. I could tell, though, he was digging the music coming out of my window, Chucho Valdes on piano. At least, I could do something right. Then, finally, he said, “Uh huh.”
I said, “It’s just that it’s been so long. Then I get my hands dirty for the first time in months and sure enough you show up to witness me down here on my knees.”
He said, “Where else am I going to be?”
I said, “You’re all over. You’re like…California, here I come.”
He said, “But that was then and this is now. Where you been?”
I said, “Now, hold on there just a darn minute.”
He said, “You hold on. I’m on. I been on.”
Then I had to say, and not for the first time, or the last time, “Whoa.”
He then said, “Everybody wants to talk, nobody wants to listen.”
I said, “That’s only good common sense.”
He replied, “You some kind of original thinker, I’ll say that.”
“Anyway,” I said, “You’ll thank me when the hummingbirds start bopping this Summer.”
“I remember,” he intoned, ” how I was chewing gopher meat on that very spot when I heard Charlie Parker for the first time. I heard Miles Davis that night, too, tooting his horn with a mute. And John Coltrane was on tenor. Turns out that the lady who built the first house here before you came along to tear it down, was a bebop fan.”
“It must be the spot.”
“It had to be before the Catastrophe of 1949, because I didn’t pay too much attention to humans before then. As far as I could see, they were all just digging in the dirt, just like you. But, man I could hear that Bird was different. He was playing on a live recording from the Black Hawk in San Francisco. That right there said a lot to me. Even if we not all that close, black hawks are still my brothers. I thought, man something’s going on here. I better check this out. Bird was getting up there, and out there, like I didn’t know your kind could.”
“How many times am I going to have to tell you I don’t appreciate being referred to as one of ‘my kind’?
“As many times as you want. Don’t bother me none. Even you know that parallel planes can’t meet.”
“It’s still not right. That’s how misunderstandings multiply and divide.”
“Just keep talking. If you think that’s what’s gonna make you feel better about your self.”
The tawny owl had made several attempts to explain to me the complexity of his hoots but something refused to click inside of my head. I know that there were, or are, multi-part intonations to consider that have everything to do with cosmic dust in distant galaxies that are based upon dynamic figure eights and exploding spirals. And of course there were ramifications to exploding spirals. “That’s, like, so, well…duh,” he proclaimed. Or was it the syncopation I’m mixing up? And how was any intelligent creature supposed to ignore the evidence from the multitudes of rocks and rolls that were twisting and shaking looses? Some were as big as boulders. There were ramification to that, too. Must be.
Soon, my eyes would water and I would get a headache. I don’t think it was due to the cosmic dust, either. At that point, I was forced to stop listening. I’ll bet you would do the same. If not, let me know, and maybe I’ll find a new solution. If I ever get another chance, that is. Which would be up the the tawny owl and not me. Which is why he is His High Unholy Majestic Hipness, Thee Tawny Owl, and I’m not. And never could be. Unless I come to know a lot more then than I do now. Although, I don’t know how I could. Or when. And not for the first time. Not the last either. Because the last is never ending. Same as the first. Unless not. Or whatever.