Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nocturnal Confessions

The Bat that flits at close of Eve
Has left the Brain that won't believe.
The Owl that calls upon the Night
Speaks the Unbeliever's fright.
--William Blake

I am a sound sleeper. Upon reading this statement, some of you are undoubtedly laughing quite heartily because you have, at some point, tested the veracity of this fact...and suffered the ugly consequences. When I say "ugly", I'm speaking about my countenance AND attitude. My children learned at a very tender age to never, ever, ever wake mommy because whatever their ailment or nightmare, it wasn't half as painful or terrifying as a prematurely awakened moi.

I also routinely sleep through natural disasters. One time, during one of those impressive midwestern late-night thunderstorms, lightening struck our house. Tim recounts the awful cracking noise, the blinding light, the sharp smell of ozone...and the equally horrible realization that, as he was floating mid-air over the bed from the fright, my breathing hadn't changed, nor had I flinched. Years later, in Japan, when an earthquake would strike before dawn, I would only awaken to him shaking me, shouting, "Did you feel THAT?!" The fool. The FOOL.

Currently, we live in a rental house that backs up to a busy freeway. For the past 8 weeks, we've had no need for air conditioning and have slept with the windows open to let in the cool Colorado night air. The traffic noise does not bother me a bit. The other night, though, I heard something that put me instantly on alert.

Although I had never heard it before, live and in person, I instantly recognized an owl's forlorn call...its deep, repetitive who whooooo, who whooooo, was being answered by another creature of the night nearby. "Oh, isn't that nice", I sleepily thought to myself, "Along with mountain lions, we have owls in our suburb." Then, in response to the two owls, came this high-pitched whistle, like a coach blowing through his middle fingers to get his players' attention in the backfield.

I sat up in bed. The noises repeated two more times: hoot, hoot, piercing whistle. I stumbled out of bed and looked out the bedroom window. Nothing moved. Not even the traffic. I ran around to the windows in the front of the house and peeked through the blinds. It was dark but the moon illuminated the driveway and front yard. I started to worry that the windows weren't locked downstairs and that the intruders might be communicating about how to get in...

Tim quietly called from the bedroom, "Are you okay?". Hovering in the doorway, I nervously responded, "Shhh! Can you hear that? They're talking to each other. They're casing the house."

He sat up, rubbing his eyes: "What the hell are you talking about?" I started to explain that there were three people outside talking to each other in...owl...and...they were going to break...into...our house?...through an open our...laundryroom? I believe it was in the moments following his utterance of the Lord's name in vain, that I realized that my fear seemed an eeensy bit loony.

I felt a little more sheepish the next morning when I did some quick research on the web about native Coloradoan owls. The lurker was most probably a Horned Owl. They hang out on rooftops in suburbia, prefer to hunt right before dawn and happen to shriek...sometimes eerily like a human.

Surprisingly, I could not find any information indicating whether or not this breed has a propensity to break into suburban homes in small gangs and steal valuable Asian knick-knacks and dirty laundry. Just look at the little thug's smug face, though. You know he wants to.