The tawny owl was discussing the fissure that thrives to this day on nearby Mt. Loma Prieta, its scope, density, acuity, parameters, path, and several of its long range perambulations for the creatures that depend on its hearty minerals in their daily diet.
It was somewhat frightening for me that I had no idea what the fuck he was talking about. I said, “Yeah.”
He said, “Gyrations…something…dig…blah…rotations…something.” Then he said, “You see the difference?”
I said, with confidence, “Yeah.”
Then he said, “Close is not even close.”
And I said, “Whoa.”
This is the same fissure that is mostly known by certain small minded humans as the epicenter of the Loma Prieta Earthquake that cracked the Santa Cruz Mountains open like a walnut, disrupted the 1989 World Series, which is not truly worldly at all, knocked down a vital segment of the Bay Bridge, and skewed at a number of impossible modern angles a bunch of yuppified apartment buildings that later burned down in the San Francisco Marina district.
Many a brave creature had become lost in the aftermath of its opened jaws. Some were spit out like regurgitated bones and nails. Some are still out there. Rotating, it would seem.
I don’t know what the tawny owl thought that had to do with my current state of affairs, which not coincidentally happens to be my personal obsession, but I felt as if I was in no position to ask explicitly. The epicenter, which would be at the end of an arduous climb for me, is only two miles from my house as the owl flies.
He said, “You’ve been there, haven’t you?”
I knew this was going to be a hard test. It was not exactly dark, but getting close. I had no business trying to fool myself into thinking anything of lasting value would come of it. It was the kind of test where I knew in advance that all of my answers, such as they are, were going to be wrong. It did not specifically matter what the answers were, or are, or will be, or could be.
“Oh, sure,” I lied.
“When was the last time?”
“It’s hard to say. I guess it’s been a while.”
“There are some interesting new developments.”
“I”ll meet you there in an hour.”
This test, you see, which did not involve any questions explicitly, not from the tawny owl any more than from me, and which was only part of the reason any random offering of answers would likely be perilous, coming at my own expense, was not a test of facts, data, or linear reason, which as far as the tawny owl flew, was one, but not nearly the only way to go.
He took off, and I did not follow in the way I would have liked, or you can imagine I would have liked, not exactly, although you can bet I tried my fucking best, or close, sort of, despite the darkness that was as vast as any crevice could be.
I ventured a short distance into the redwood forest of Nisene Marks and I’m not going to deny the obvious. I turned one way, slowly. Or was it another? It did not take long before I was spooked. In fact, it took no time at all because I was spooked before I started. All I needed to do was listen to my heart thumping like one of those creepy, threatening worms in Dune by Frank Herbert. I knew I wasn’t going to be getting anywhere. And it was not only due to the rampaging darkness, even though it was the magnitude of darkness that is rarely seen, yet alone appreciated. And if I knew it you can be sure that the tawny owl knew it. It was a test, remember. He was the one up there. And I was stuck down here.
I thought then, and still do, that I need to see where I am going even if I am not going to be getting anywhere. I need it badly. I think it’s a human condition. On previous expeditions into the the forest of Nisene Marks, which can appear to be a jungle, even though the Sun was still shining, I had turned an ankle, tweaked a hamstring, and suffered a thousand red slings and arrows from insidious poison oak that puffed up my eyes like bloated bullfrogs stuffed with helium balloons. And each time, theoretically, I could see, sort of.
So I turned back like a slithering yellow bellied coward, felt my way through a maze of obstacles, not all of which derived from my own imagination, and before too long I was drinking my second mug of brown beer. It went down just the way I like it. No creepiness involved.
After that, I stayed inside for a spell of cogitated waiting. I surely kept busy. I compiled lists, filled forms, deciphered secret code. I checked boxes, balances, references. I touched my knees, my toes, my nose. I discovered a nail that needed hammering, another that needed to be trimmed. There were sharp objects of which to be wary, surfaces that required a good smoothing, messages to be avoided. In the dim light I slept, dreamt, rolled over, remembered little. That good old balance thingy sure did pay off. I played the hand I dealt myself. Nothing wrong with a good pair of deuces, right? I figured a man could get somewhere that way.
Two days later, the tawny owl remarked, “So you live to see another day.”
“That was never the question, was it?”
“I’m not the one with all the questions.”
“Are you saying I am?”
“There you go again.”
“How come you don’t know for sure?”
“Where am I?”
Do you believe it’s best to let bygones be bygones?
What happens when your bygones come back to bite you on the ass?