There were isolated moments during the first night after his return from the annual conclave of top level raptors at the highest point in California, Mt. Whitney, when I could hear the tawny owl hooting from one of several perches in the redwood trees that surround my house. He was blowing in alto and tenor both, with a tinge of trumpet added, supremely cool as usual. But, he was not favoring any one spot for long. It was hard for me to sleep, of course. Early, there was a woodpecker slapping a mean bass alongside him. Later, his lovely wife Thee Mrs. belted out brass with vinegar and salt like Patti LaBelle. The hoots were largely buoyant, elongated, contrapuntal, and quadraphonic. I couldn’t help but think, whoa, fucking whoa. This must be what happens at the apex, the pinnacle, the tip of an astral projection. It began to give me the central shimmies and shakes to be that close to transcendence. My hips lamely tried to keep up.
It was almost a full day later when he finally re-acknowledged my existence. He was perched in the redwood tree about sixty feet above my back door. I was grateful. He had dropped the regurgitated head of a mouse nearby to attract my attention. It was vibrantly red, viscous, slimy. It was hardly my first exposure to a dead head, though. Regurgitated mice were a staple of our non-verbal communication. The tawny owl was a major believer in the powers of classic icons and symbols that originate in the spiral Galaxy NGC3314b. He tells me words can only take you so far before flattening out. Non-complex chemical reactions, too. Unless that was Galaxy NGC3314a. I worried either way, though, that something at a very high level had to be up.
Not ingenuously, I said, “You look pretty sharp as usual.”
At first, I was confused. I thought perhaps he was too high up there to hear me. Or preoccupied while preening. Even though I knew that could not be. Not the tawny owl I know. The tawny owl is able to juggle epic gyrations, wacky opinions, meandering views, and secret murmurings with ease. His hearing is as sharp and biting as his claws. But, I repeated myself anyway, only louder.
He said, “What are you trying to do? Disturb my lovely wife, Thee Mrs.? You know she’s not too fond of you from the get go.”
I said, “I don’t know what I was thinking.”
He said, “I believe it.”
In order to change the subject, I said, “So, you’re back.” Then, after a poignant pause, I said, “You don’t have to answer that.” Then, to regroup, I said, “I figured something was up.”
“Other than you being down, you mean.”
“I don’t believe you dropped in just to insult me. I think you have something more than that on your mind.”
The tawny owl has a big head, big eyes, big claws. Inside of his big head, he possesses a superbly wired big brain. He lives large in big trees in a big forest. The aura he embodies is big. The impression he leaves behind him is often startlingly big, as well as multiply dimensional and polychromatic. Unlike humans, his big brain does not go 80% unused.
He said, “Well, yeah, like…duh.”
I said, “Can you come a little closer? My throat is getting raw.”
He said, “I guess I’d better.”
I said, “Wow, this must be important.”
Of course, the tawny owl could no more simply hop down than he could dig a hole and crawl into the dirt like a human or a mole. That would be far too linear. And dirty. First, he had to rise up, circle, and swoop. Then he performed a few dazzling shingaling moves in my face, to show off some of what I’m missing.
“All the highest raptors have agreed we need a new cat management philosophy. The eagles and hawks are finally coming around. Too many poor beautiful birds are suffering.”
I said, “I heard something about it in a song from the teeny yellow warbler.”
“By now, it’s spreading all over.”
I said, “Does that mean that eagles will be flying bombing missions over our heads? That would be so cool.”
“It’s the human enablers behind the cats that need to be stopped. Without the humans, these cats are nothing.”
I thought, humans again. It’s always humans, humans, humans. What can be done with all these humans running amok?
“But, I don’t think humans are going away anytime soon,” I ventured.
He said, “We’ll see out about that.”
I thought, whoa, fucking whoa, he can’t mean me, can he? I’m human but not human like that, not in any sort of way with guilt attached. He must be talking about humans like the techno-yuppie dweebs next door who enable their marauding white cat. I said, “What about recruiting attack dogs to take out the cats?”
“Apples and oranges.”
I said, “Yeah, I guess a lot of characters in stories are mismatched fruits like that.”
He rotated his neck just far enough past that 180 degree point where I knew I’d better keep quiet. I don’t need to know why anymore and I don’t ask. I’ve learned many lessons from some of my mistakes. I tried to listen closely and be able to follow.
He said, “Speaking of mistakes, your name came up.”
I literally overlooked the fact that he was reading my mind again. I said, “Is that supposed to be funny? Should I be laughing?”
“That’s what I said. But some of the others thought it might be worth a try.”
“What do you mean, others?”
“Eagles and falcons, mostly. Not so many hawks.”
“Okay, you’re beginning to freak me out now.”
I thought, me? Known to an eagle? What far out bird like that would have anything to do with me? I thought not only what, but how, and why? I concluded, I don’t think I can see that far.
He said, “How much do you know about Benedict Arnold?”
Again, I thought, whoa, fucking whoa. I did not want to brag but I thought the little I knew about Benedict Arnold was in fact more than nothing. I know about betrayal all right. I could tell something was up. Do the eagles want me to become a secret double agent? What would I do? How would I act? Do I need a good disguise? Do I have to think about it first? What good would that do? One thing I know I can do is keep a secret. Maybe I need to look into this and examine the issues a little deeper. Then I thought, nah.
I said, “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”