Owling, Ule

8 12 2009

My hair will not turn white

for I crawled out of the womb of machines,

someone had strangled

her snow-white sister

I wanted to share this with you:

Yesterday I went for a run (as I am wont to do)–I took the path through a local Park.  I can run the path and feel like I am in the woods for a moment before I leave the park and run up to the kid’s school (and then make them walk home–which at times is fabulous and at times is unpleasant).

On the trail I saw

first:  a Bewick’s wren

second:  a barred owl

third:  bare branches against the sky with small gold leaves fluttering on a smaller tree below

This was, for some reason, a sublime combination.

the bells of the one

and only world.

Perhaps it was the cold.  It was 0 degrees Celcius and there was indeed ice.

Perhaps it was the absence of the police– the death of Maurice Clemmons.

Perhaps it was just being outside.

just whose world is forbidden to me.

Or maybe it was the damn owl, sitting low to the ground, on a fallen stump near the creek, where unfrozen water beside the dark bare trees.  I am always so very pleased by the sight of a wren, of any species, and the wren prepared me, though he/she hid so quickly, I knew she/he was there.  The owl swiveled her/his head and I imagined the silence of his/her flight.

I am not a good ornithologist and so I had to look up the owl species when I got home.  My ignorance was indeed bliss.   The pretty creature was a barred owl.

If I didn’t open my eyelids

Of course, barred owls are kicking spotted owls out of their habitat.  Or rather, they are expanding their range into the contracting range of the spotted owl–and in these ranges they are aggressively taking over habitat used by the spotted owl.

(I wouldn’t have seen the rope).

Life is linked to violence, so says Matthew Calarco.  But that doesn’t help me now that I am stuck with the sense that that gorgeous barred owl is yet another verminous creature pushing another species extinct.  (and what does extinct mean?  it means never again).

The barred owl is of course, only expanding its range because it can survive in areas opened up by humans–city parks, secondary growth.  Spotted owls do not do well in these environments–nor do they do well when sharing ranges with the barred owl who are more aggressive and will kick members of the endangered species out of suitable breeding grounds–at least according to a collection of anecdotal observations.   They are, to quote The Smithsonian Magazine, “bigger and meaner.”  And when the barred owl moves in, the spotted owl moves out.  Of course, one favored approach to managing the problem is shooting the barred owls.

If I had the word

Isn’t that always the way we deal with our problems–just shoot it. I’ve written about this before in light of that far more objectionable (by many people’s standards–though not necessarily mine) beastie–the feral cat. I find the issue of the human-caused collision of species other than humans to be extraordinarily troubling.  It is hard to sort through and I believe that for the most part our ethical responsibility to all individuals involved is elided.  At the same time, for the spotted owl, it is triage time–as they are essentially currently cycling towards extinction.

(I wouldn’t misplace it)

if I had no thistles in my heart

If you have a better way of thinking about this– a way that will reduce the fraught sense I feel about nearly everything (this harms that–that harms this–careful where you step) let me know, it’s gotten harder to talk myself out of these ethical conundrums, despite the fact that I ultimately have no practical involvement with most of them anyway.

(I would put out the sun)

I will neither be shooting nor facilitating the movement of the owl I saw yesterday–but then I wish him or her godspeed; so perhaps I am more committed than I’ll admit to you or to me.

Often I’ve wished

for the quiet of angels

and hunting grounds filled

with the powerless cries

of my friends.


quotes are from Ingeborg Bachmann, Calarco’s comment is in The Death of the Animal




One response

9 12 2009
Debra Di Blasi

I hope you eventually publish this blog in book form. It’s beautiful.

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