Friday, January 11, 2008

Groping back to bed...

...well, the Philip Larkin poem continues from there with a rude word or two, so I won't print the rest of it. Google it -- it's a great poem. But every now and then I'm up in the middle of the night, and sometimes before I hop back in the sack, I go out on our porch in Slings Gap to listen to the night.

Last night we were socked in with fog and chilly rain. Before midnight the wind roared in the treetops high above our house. Our part of the gap is oriented roughly west-to-east, so the prevailing winds frequently whistle through the notch.

Between 1 and 2 am when I was up briefly, the wind had died back a bit, so it wasn't as noisy. It was back to how it usually is in our little holler in the middle of the night, which is dead quiet. No lights, no neighbors, no cars.

With the fog and heavy overcast, it was pitch black. Rain dripped from the branches overhead, the wind pushed the wet fog across the front porch. The moisture-laden air was thick and heavy and cold. At 43 degrees, it wasn't freezing, but it was chilly on bare skin. Down below the yard, the creek tinkled.

I just listened, as I usually do. Nothing.

Then, after a couple of minutes, maybe a quarter mile down the holler, the shivery sound of an eastern screech-owl. We've heard them before in the holler, but not often. The common owl here is the barred owl. We probably don't have enough open terrain for screech-owls here. But my neighbor Jenny Chapman saw one on a fence a mile or two down the road earlier this week. Maybe this was the same guy.

This owl was far enough away that I could barely pick him out above the wet wind sighing in the black trees. Just two or three high, quavery wails in the night. Then silence.

Sometimes I wonder: do the little mice and other rodents who are the prey of owls hear such noises and quake in fear? Or is that anthropomorphizing them? Probably it is. But I wonder anyway.

Just night thoughts. In a pitch-black holler in the mountains as the wind soughs in the trees. Night thoughts. . .and then back to bed.


Eco Enthusiast said...

Great writing--will enjoy reading more. We often hear owls in the night--barred and the screech owl usually but mostly during the summer when the windows are open.

I put a link to your blog from mine. Check it out:

Seth Williamson said...

Whoa -- nice blog. Thanks for the link; when I figure out how to do it myself, I will return the favor. Also trying to figure out how to post photos. I'm new to this, which is probably painfully obvious.