The tawny owl was etching a complex diagram on the surface of a white boulder that had tumbled out of the Santa Cruz Mountains into Aptos Creek. He was using all claws, no beak. He was providing expert commentary in his unmistakably deep voice of authority. I could hear every word that he was saying and I am certain that had I been able to understand what the fuck he was talking about I might have learned some important new shit. I craned my stiff neck to get a better look. What he was talking about was apparently way far out there in the mulitverse. He rotated his pliable neck a mere 223 degrees in my direction, just enough to be able to read my mind again.
“You have no freakin’ clue what I’m talking about, do you?”
After an initial pause that was supposed to replicate actual thought, though still somewhat tentatively, I said, “Uh.”
The tawny owl was not yet laughing his ass off but I knew the time would surely come. I have no problem with that anymore. I have come to realize that it’s not really personal, even when it feels as if it is. It is a simple fact that beautiful birds like to laugh more than frightened humans will ever be able to know.
Then I said, appropriately I thought, with far more confidence this time, straight, no chaser, “I’m sure that you know the answer to that a lot better than me.”
My concentration was temporarily diverted by a zippy hummingbird who was teasing a nearby cerulean flower. He came closer to the tawny owl to get in on the fun. Although still recovering from my latest injuries, I felt safe to be back in the classroom looking up the tawny owl. I could pretend that my most recent stay in the Santa Cruz County Jail was behind me.
The diagram that the tawny owl had finished etching looked like a lumpy soccer ball made by slave labor in Bangladesh. The scary stuffing that glowed was spilling out to form eerie tendrils that shimmied. He explained that the tendrils represented paths to the resort colonies in space that human money changers were preparing as a means of escape. In addition, there were a great number of what looked like ants sucking down sugar. It could have been any mind boggling huge number. The more permanent inhabitants of the planet were greatly relieved to see a little progress being made and looked forward to the day a mass exodus of humans with baggage would begin. The groovy humpback whales had been feeling especially constrained in the latest century by container ships, power plants, plastic eddies, and floating styrofoam coolers.
I said, “If I say whoa, fucking whoa, you’ll just laugh at me some more.”
“Laugh hard, lots more.”
“You know I’ma be laughing my ass off at you and your kind no matter what or how.”
I said, “Yeah, I know.”
I thought we had started out the lesson theoretically trying to correlate the correctable relationships in the war against human enablers of treacherous cats that murder beautiful birds. Correlate with what, though, I was never able to comprehend. There was something that came before something that led somewhere. Unless it came after. Before long I concluded that I had nowhere to stuff any more input. My head felt as if it was filled with wriggling ramen noodles. From a relative distance, I appeared to be mindlessly scribbling again. Unless those were doodles. I’ve heard many claims that doodles can be quite revealing and insightful. But, when I looked down, I decided, nah.
“Without gravity out there you and your kind won’t have no more use for hips. Your hips will be replaced by big heads on wrinkly necks that won’t be able to move more than a few inches at a time. Those necks gonna need lots of lubrication. Those heads gonna be stuffed with lots of pudding and pie filling. It’s a shame what will happen to the legacy of James Brown.
There was a lot of what the tawny owl told me that was difficult to accept on a regular basis, but this particular diagram was so far out there that I knew there was no point in trying to fake any understanding. He’d only call me on it, anyway.
I said, “You know what I think,”
He said, “Yeah.”
The tawny owl tells me that what humans call history is only current events. Not even James Brown, the most influential figure in current events of the so-called twentieth century, can live forever on the itty bits of humanity that become absorbed and passed on through dirt. Only beautiful birds and groovy whales get to fly that high.
I said, “I think I may have been on the verge of producing a meaningful thought back there. I’d appreciate it if you’d delay your mind reading to and give me a little bit more of a chance to develop.”
He said, “I do.”
I did not know what else I could say after that. My shoulders were not broad. My scribbling was already passe. My noodles were only going to get soggy. I knew he was speaking in a future tense that skipped past my place in line. Unless that was retro.
I paused before I spontaneously repeated myself, and said, fittingly,”Uh.”