I sat at the Powder Valley presentation at camp today, the Missouri Department of Conservation come to talk to us, and they were talking in general terms about habitats and then got into some specifics. Turtles, for instance. Owls. She had an turkey wing and flapped it in the air near us so we could hear the stiff feathers move. Thwat thwat thwat. Then she brought out the owl wing and did the same thing.
The girls were impressed, which made me happy. They are a good group, girl scouts who go to summer day camp. The presentation went on to a little dramatic scene with girls pretending to be owls and trying to compete for habitat but I was still with the owl wing, the silent owl wing.
I sit on the trunk of Troy's car, twenty years ago, leaning up against the back window in the dim light of post-sunset Houston. The orange lights from the oil refineries are blocked by the live oak trees all around us, the summer heat never lifts, and me and a boy are on the back of the rusted yellow orange Datsun. The air smells like the still water on the other side of the railroad tracks, something poor, something stagnant. It infuses the gravel driveway, the wooden porch, the house, the car. I rarely ride in the car; I rarely visit the house. Most times I pick him up and we drive someplace more familiar, suburban, middle class.
So many things I couldn't see then that I see now.
We lean back, not touching, looking up towards the breaks in the trees. So much of the time I filled with talk, he filled with movement. But now we are silent and still. And there it is, the floating flash of feathers as the owl passes overhead. Time passes, and we hear the who-who-who. I don't know until much later that it's probably a great horned owl--it was a large creature, it didn't have the spooky barred owl call, it didn't shriek. Just "who".
The naturalist continues on, habitat, habitat, habitat, troubles for turtles, coyotes, cars, development. I'm wondering who. Who was that girl? Who was that boy? Who did we think we were? Who did we think we could possibly be? Who are we now.