Friday, May 20, 2011

"Friday Night Frolic" - Hooting Lessons

Internet source unknown

In the midmost darkness of the night, from the deep pine-canopied woods beyond the stream that passes through the acre of land on which I reside, comes a brusque Whoooop! backed up by the low-pitched humming of tree frogs. At early dawn, before the fog has lifted from the small, stone-lined clearing behind the house, there is a growl, a Krroooo!, an  instinctual and aggressive reverberation, a warning to those who dare to prowl near the nest.

I imagine the mother flailing her tiger-striped wings as she releases a cold shriek, like that of a little girl watching an old Lon Chaney film. Aaaaarhh! Her heart is thumping, her carnelian eyes dense and tight with anger. Whaaaarrrk! She moves swiftlybefore her nestlings are taken as banquet by hungry moonlighters. She doesn't breathe. She swoops down and grabs the startled weasel, crushing him with her tense talons, until he can breathe no more.

The fierce bloodletting of mother's strike prompts a silent interlude. Not even the peeping chorus of the ashy tree frogs can be heard.

And then a moist, early morning zephyr blows through. Sweet Pepperbush and fern sway in its breath. The mother calmly rests with her babes in a feather-lined crib of twigs she swindled from a pesky squirrel. Ho-ho hoo! 

Breathe, owl, breathe.

Wild creatures are in retrograde. All is safe in the forest again.

I think.

Does threat ever truly retreat?

The wilds have their own melody and pitch.

Breath Owl Breathe sings their tune. Ho-ho, hoo!


  1. Wonderful description of a majestic silent predator. Fond of owls.
    Just breathe;)

  2. Delicious post Jayne…visual and visceral. Yum.

  3. I'm surprised any of the forest denizens would even consider messing with a mama owl! They are legendary predators.

    The male singer reminds me of Cat Stevens back in the golden days...*sigh*

  4. Antares- Captivating creatures they are. Yes, this was a good exercise in not only hooting, but breathing (which I oft forget to do!).

    Leah- So glad you enjoyed this! I just love the band, they're approach is so refreshing and joyful. :)

    LordW- You'd think no smaller critter would dare go near mama's babies, but there are predators under every rock and behind every tree. Weasels included. Fox and coyote enjoy an owl diet, too. The Great Horned owl holds her own, though. Thank goodness!

  5. Damn girl, you taunt me, that is the second bunch of music I HAVE NOT HEARD OF! And here's me thinking I knew every minstrel, horn blower, guitar picker, skin whacker, bow stroker and fiddle player in the world. Nice music, very sweet stuff.
    But this is not a forum for me, it's about commenting on your writing.
    Well, what a wonderful, evocative piece and as Leah said 'visual and visceral'
    Nice metaphorical touch there about a mummy and her offspring too. Carnelian, what a deliciously captivating word!
    From now on I am not going anywhere near an owl. I thought they just sat around going 'whoo whoo' and lived on sticks and berries. Not only do they scare the bejeebus out of rodents, they score a feed as well.
    Delightful work!

  6. crap, no matter what kind of comment i write, it will sound like lame drivel following dan up there. ;)
    anyway, i really liked this, and i love owls. i once had a huge one swoop down on me (i mean he was inches from my face) in a dark forest. it was a little scary in the moment but so special too, i love brushes with the wild.
    also, i thought i might let you know that i have quite a few songs/artists on my ipod that are there because of your posts.

  7. My wife related a story about her ex-husband, an avid "birder" who had heard from the birding community that a particular bird had been seen in some specific location.

    He got to the location and started to replicate the bird call. Soon her heard a reply. He would call, then listen for the reply, moving cautiously in the direction of the sound.

    He kept this up for hours getting closer and closer until finally he encountered... another group of birders making the same bird call.

  8. This post takes me back. (I'm so seriously old...) to my grandad's place out in a rural community in East Texas. It's my dad's now, but I remember sitting outside long past dark just listening to the sounds of nightlife. It was the best and most peaceful kind of music.

  9. P.S. I LOVE the new header pic. Is that a sea monster I spy? Might be a cousin of mine.

  10. We have a little Discovery Channel on our patio this spring with our second nesting of white wing doves.

  11. Ah. Perhaps this is the "bird woman" side of you which you mentioned???

    For many years, owls have made me think, first, of Twin Peaks -- in which they appeared as mysterious bringers of even more mysterious tidings from other planes of the universe. Even when (as the saying went) the owls were not what they seemed, they lingered as a fixed element of the TP landscape (real and imagined).

    These days, when I think of owls in the everyday world, I'm thinking of walking The Pooch. We've got quite a few owls, hawks, and even eagles in our little corner of suburban north Florida; when you walk a 5-pound dog in such an environment, you start to watch and listen to the neighborhood skies more than you used to!

    Breathe, Owl, Breathe: what a great musical discovery. Thanks so much for introducing them to us!

  12. Dan- I would have guessed you knew them all, too! (I think you really do, you're just humoring me, aren't you?)
    And yes, those owls are as serious about feeding and protecting there young as most mothers. We've got some sharp claws, alright. ;)

    id- He does have a way w/words, doesn't he?! Those owls are beautiful with creatures. My grandmother, and avid birdwatcher, was quite taken with them. She had an enormous collection of all things owl. Maybe that's why I'm so taken with them.
    I'm glad you're finding some good music here for your library. I love to find new artists and share that joy. (My brother's really good at ferreting out new bands, too. He sent me this one, BOB, just last week.)

  13. Robert- What a great story! I'm going to use that one, if you don't mind. ;)

    Nessa- I love that sound, too. We have a camp up at a quiet lake in Maine, and summer nights there are heaven. Max drew the picture for me. I think we're going to try a few things... and yup, it's a sea monster--he's fond of those! ;)

    Carol- Oh so wonderful! I have a friend who used to hunt doves out in Texas. I didn't like that much. He doesn't do that anymore, thank goodness.

  14. JES- You just made me realize that I don't have a "bird" label. I'm going to have to add one tonight. "Acting like a deranged bird" and "cawing" are also found under Interests in my Profile. I don't know why I admit that.
    I've only seen a couple of episodes of TP, and I remember liking the show, but I just don't get in front of the TV much. Never have, which can make me feel a bit of a bore at dinner parties when the conversation inevitably turns to the latest hit show on the tube.
    It's funny how the owl is symbol of wealth and wisdom, secrets, mystery, and even birth and death. I'm not sure what to think about that other than our relationship with the owl has run the gamut. And then, of course, there's that whole nocturnal thing. They are mysterious looking creatures, a transcendental quality, which is probably why they elicit such an emotional response from us. Hmmm...Maybe I need a dog to walk.
    My pleasure to bring BOB to you! :)

  15. What a clever little segway from prose to music. Nice writing, as always, Jayne. You paint a very fine picture. And the band is really good. I'm looking them up on iTunes right now. Thanks!

  16. Cawing?!? Remind me never to get in a TSA inspection line with you. :) (And I did in fact go through the blog's labels looking for "bird." When I finally gave up and just searched the blog on forms of the word, I got too many hits to quickly follow up on!)

    Coincidentally, the uber-evil villain in Twin Peaks was named BOB -- often capitalized that way, although there was no indication it was an acronym.

    Part of the appeal of owls, I think, is that -- like humans, unlike other birds -- their eyes are on the front of their heads rather than the sides. It gives them a certain visceral appeal even though they're also clearly not human. (I read a while back that some form of facial-analysis software has established that the front end of the Mini Cooper car shares numerous features with human infants. Looking like us seems to bring inherent advantages in dealing with us!)

  17. Beer- Thank you! I'm liking this group more and more. They're too adorable!

    JES- Haha! I only caw in private. Or up at the lake. (Anything goes there.)
    Ah, yes, the eyes have it, don't they? All this owl talk had me dreaming of them last night... I think a story's percolating.
    Very interesting bit about the mini coop. They really are darling. :)
    Btw- if like BOB, you may also want to check out another FNF, highlighting Pearl and the Beard (3/18). ;)

  18. As alway, so eloquent. I sometimes, walk a trail here and there is a species of owls that don't seem to know they are nocturnal that are hooting (or whatever that sound is called) Very distinctive. There faces remind me of a big eyed cat.(sort of) Really, they are lovely.

    By the way, I have something for you over at my blog.

  19. Cheryl- We have a morning owl here, too. I discovered him not long ago, and thought it so strange that I did some research, and it turns out that day owling (a new definition for owling?) is not so uncommon after all. They are lovely, yes, quite beautiful. :)
    And thank you for the wonderful gift!

  20. Owls are so strange, they really shouldn't exist at all, but be the unicorns of the bird world, the mermaids of the air. I think even toddlers shiver to see their strangeness; something in our collective memories has been passed down.

    The music is owl-strange. How did you find it?

  21. Mysterious creatures those owls.

    Love the sound of the cello in the clip of B.O.B.

  22. Nance- Oh yes, something very odd in those collective memories. I have a number of sources for new music, but my brother fed me this band. He's very good at that. ;)

    SF- Isn't it wonderful? She has also recorded solo. Just gorgeous cello. :)