It’s my favorite time of day: the darkest, heaviest sky before dawn when fog lurks around, low on the ground, like a slithering dragon on the prowl. I’m standing in my living room, the four large windows gateways to faint outlines of familiar trees and the barn. Somewhere out there, a small hoot calls from the tree tops. It’s only one owl with one hoot and it’s a somber one, although I can’t quite put my finger on why it seems so sad.
I’ve read before that most owls mate for life and for the owls that live out here in deep, swampy east Texas, it’s the norm–Barn Owls, Great-Horned Owls, Burrowing Owls, among the most common. I’ve read too that in the tragic event that an owl’s monogamous partner dies, they will stay put, in the safe place they’ve built, and wait to see if one day, maybe, another mate might come along. It’s hard to imagine a sweet, little owl feeling so lonely for an unknown period of time. Maybe forever.
I wonder to myself if the solemn hoot up in the trees, calling from the darkness, knows that she is alone and hopes that someone new, lonely, and searching themselves, hears her call. Or does she know she’s not alone, calling for her partner that she fears is lost, trapped, or injured, too far away to hear her beckoning? Or can they hear and are just too scared or too weak to hoot back?
As the black slowly shifts to gray, the hoots stop. Another day in a nest, waiting, wondering, worrying. Part of me wishes she would leave and explore and either find her lost mate or go, on her own, to see the world and all her glory from above. But I don’t think she knows how to leave her nest; after all, it’s where she’s hatched her eggs, or where she hoped she would. And it’s safe here. Is it safe out there?
Little owl, I wish you knew you weren’t alone. I wish I could wrap you in a blanket and comb your feathers and tell you it’s going to be okay, but we both know there’s no way to know that.
I hope you keep hooting, baby girl. I’ll listen, I promise. I’ll stand here at the window every morning and listen to your calls until the day there are two hoots or until the day there are none. Either way, I’ll be so proud of you.