Right now, as I start this post (around 11 pm Tuesday night), the windows are open and I am listening to the almost conversational sound of a barred owl (Strix varia) that we affectionately call “the laughing monkey witch owl.” It remains unseen (hence no photos of my own!), but its voice is heard nearly every day, at all hours of the day and night, a now familiar and unmistakable sound. This creature earned it’s nickname the very first time we’d heard it, a night in March by the fire shortly after moving in. The call is not a simple hoot or anything I would have expected an owl to sound like. Every reference on the barred owl describes the sound as like the owl saying “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?” We’ve noticed it also makes a variety of other sounds, usually when another owl is around, and we’ve even attempted to mimic it, trying to talk to it, and sometimes it seems to call back.
This time the owl is very close, probably just out behind our house and the adventurous adult male in the family wants to go out to look for it in the pitch dark with a flashlight. I do really want to see this thing; I’ve imagined many times the magic of being in the right place at the right time and holding my breath as to not make a sound, but I make excuses about it being too late, and “we’ll get eaten alive,” and “what if the kids wake up?” Reluctantly, I get a hooded sweatshirt and long pants on, but I’ve wasted too much time grumbling and by the time I finally get outside, it has moved to the neighbors’ woods.
Suddenly, I realize this morning, that this is about more than not seeing an owl. It is about my life. It’s about all of the missed opportunities and wasted moments, fleeting chances for something more, something greater, all overcome by fear, apathy, selfishness, disobedience, outright laziness at times, or contentment with merely being a spectator. It’s about the lack of action, this story of my life.
I hope I keep hearing the owl. I have not tired of it yet. I usually smirk at it’s peculiarity, despite sometimes being kept awake at night or abruptly roused from sleep, and am actually a bit relieved each time because it means that the owl is still here. And if the owl is near, then there is still a chance to see it. There is still time to rewrite this story.
Update: Steve has since been able to photograph one of the owls, which I’ll have to add here.