"In the night...the scream of the rabbit is terrible. But the scream of the owl which is not of pain and hopelessness and fear of being plucked out the world, but of the sheer rollicking glory of the death-bringer, is more terrible still. When I hear it resounding through the woods, and then the five black pellets of its song dropping like stones into the air, I know I am standing on the edge of the mystery, in which terror is naturally and abundantly part of life, part of even the most becalmed, intelligent, sunny life--as for example, my own. The world where the owl is endlessly hungry and endlessly on the hunt is the world in which I live, too. There is only one world."
Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Liberal Elitest Food And the Salton Sea

I found this unposted story the other day..
We were in a booth at the Blue Onion with our friends Brian and Jutta Plath, drinking craft beer (and red wine with ice for Jutta), eating charro bean soup (most meals in The Valley begin with charro bean soup, ordered or not), flat breads, dips or wraps, most covered or filled with pesto, goat cheese, shrimp, humus, etc - eating fine things that my friend Bill once called "liberal elitist food" .... as if that was a pejorative. 
Brian is a hail-fellow-well-met (just wanted to use that one). His wife Jutta is a native of Frankfurt, and has a kiss of a German accent. Our conversation turned to stories of trips and vacations gone bad. Brian began his tale of woe, with Jutta expounding and correcting. 
They were birding the Salton Sea. It had been raining and they were excited to finally be out looking for birds along narrow clay maintenance roads. Jutta: "I told him not to go down that road, but he wouldn't listen! He never listens." Brian said the road was so slippery the truck would slide sideways even when they weren't moving. Of course they ended up in the ditch. (And recorded it.)


Brian took out his cell phone and found the number of the local AAA tow service. They just said, "We don't go out there." What? "We won't go out there for any amount of money." Jutta: "I told him we shouldn't be out there." After calling all potential tow services it appeared their only option was walking out, then going back for the truck later when the road was dry. Jutta: "Every step we took our shoes got heavier and heavier from the clay. It took us forever to get to a house." 
They walked for hours until they came upon a shack out in the middle of nowhere. They could hear activity through the open screen door, but no one came to the door when they knocked, so they stood and hollered. Eventually a nervous looking man with a gun came to the door. No one EVER came to their door out there. 
After an offer of a substantial amount of money, the fella led them around back to an open garage where there was an old 4-wheel drive truck with huge tractor tires - a mud-buggy. It turned the man's job had been turning valves to manipulate water levels and the truck was probably the only way out of there after heavy rains. He put a battery in it and strung an extension cord to the shed to charge it enough to crank the engine. And then it was out of gas. They had to siphon gas out of a barrel.
Then the guy said, "My wife is gone, so my kids will have to come along." So the Samaritan for hire, Brian, Jutta and three kids all wedged into a glorified pickup and headed out into maze of mud roads to find the truck. They had lost their bearing walking out and couldn't tell him where it was so they followed the footprints out to the truck. He hooked on, pulled it out and towed them until they reached decent roads.  

A tale as I remember it being told to me.

On Flying Dogs and Owls

We sleep with our heads to an open window. Years ago I removed the bed headboard to allow soft summer breezes and the lullaby of evening sounds to lull us to sleep. When we first moved to Oakwood 30 years ago we drifted off to the soft whinney of Screech Owls. 

Then the more entertaining Barred Owls moved in. This did not bode well for the little Screech Owls. They either moved on or became lunch. More likely the latter.


About 10 years ago I built the most owlish birdhouse I could come up with. It turned out to be unexpectedly heavy. Unexpectedly? It is 2' x 2' x 3' high, constructed of recycled 3/4" redwood. It took all my engineery expertise - cables and cams, levers and ladders, pulleys and ropes, to get it ratched up with a rusty old come-a-long into the big Bur Oak. And it looks for all the world like a doghouse for flying canines. This photo was taken the day I put it up. Over the years since then it has weathered in nicely and has become part of the oak tree ... but it has never, ever housed owls.

Last night we heard a Great Horned Owl. It is not as vocally entertaining as the Barred Owls, but its voice carries much more authority.

I hear the owl call my name ... again.  - Gunnar