Sunday, November 21, 2010
Day before Yesterday my husband and I were walking in our neighborhood. The sky was murky and darkness came early. When clouds are low or fog hovers over town we get a soft glow at night highlighted by streetlights. It is much darker on clear nights.
Out of the near darkness came a rasping screech -- a noise that makes me think of a mechanical toy giving birth. We knew instantly what it was, a young great horned owl. Sure enough a deep hoot sounded off even nearer and farther away a slightly higher “Who hooo hoo.” Before long one of the adults landed in the tippy-top of a tall pine above us, close enough to just see him in the dim light. The youngster kept calling but we couldn’t spot him in the thick clump of pines down the street.
Last night I stuck my head out hoping to hear the owls again. No owls, but the nearly full moon was lovely. The sky still held a dark touch of daytime’s blueness. Soft clouds softened the moon.
Late today I got the itch to put the two memories together. I still had time to paint a quick reference sketch of our neighbor’s scraggly cedar, a tree we assume the owls use on the rare occasions we hear them from our bedroom. It has some leggy branches just waiting for an owl. Painting the owls was the easy part. My parents were ornithologists and gave me a great horned owlet to raise when I was about 15. The laws about keeping wild pets were much more relaxed then. Even after I left home my mother nearly always had a great horned owl in residence. So I’ve drawn my share of owls in the past and dared to paint these two from my memory.