I heard an owl the other evening. It called softly from the single tree that grows lonely on the narrow bit of grass between the buildings in that place I currently call home. I wanted to ask him why he was there of all places, why I was there of all places, or at the very least how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop. But time in that place has shown only the last to be an appropriate question to ask of an owl, and I am not who or what I was.
There was a time when I wandered the fields near where I now stand, in this other place I once called home. I wandered there and sketched their beauty on my pad with a bit of charcoal from a lightning burned tree. Now I stand still and silent in the grass, smelling the clean scent of fresh dew. Not the odorless, over-purified mess from sprinklers that leaves the grass heavy and waterlogged near the owl’s tree, but a crystalline web as weightless as light. I have returned, in body anyway, to where I began.
The cool dark air wafts across the garden, softly carrying the heady scent of gardenias and the sounds of the night. The crickets, locusts, and bullfrogs provide a smoothly flowing backdrop to the yipping, howling cries of the coyotes, punctuated randomly by the barking of a dog. His jealousy of his canine brethren in the joy of the hunt and the chase of a rabbit or quail pours from the back of his throat. The crying song comes closer, and slowly fades away as they follow the chase to another field. The sound becomes lost on a different breeze than the one which stirs my hair and carries with it the scent of apples and the soft tread of the dog.
The dog slips back to the patio behind me, leaving a dark trail through the shining grass. His wild ancestors and their still wild descendants are forgotten now. They will be remembered again only in twitchy-pawed dreams or when the chase brings back the yipping howls on the wind. I step from the shining grass to the concrete and turn to go inside, glancing up a final time to the stars I can’t see at home. That other home. The place where I wondered at the call of an owl, the first I’d heard in five years. The place I currently call by the name of home, not this one that will always be so. The dog pads softly in after me and his ears perk up again as one last mournful cry skims through the closing door. He looks at me as if to ask of me those other questions I would ask of the owl. I have no answers for him, or maybe only one.
We are domesticated now.