moon with spiky tendrils in a dark sky with silhouetted tree branches

Short Essay: Duet

I fell asleep watching a mindless show on my iPad, woke up an hour later, turned off the iPad, and the light. Eleven p.m. The cat was curled against my side like a cake hot out of the oven. 

Sometimes the cat’s heat wakes me from an initial doze but this was different. I heard a sound outside, an almost-music. I listened and waited until it came again — an owl, a female Great Horned Owl. Her mate joined the song with his lower, darker voice.

The owls must have been just above my room in the tall white pine tree that crowds this side of the house. Even with the windows closed against the cold, their calls were loud through my chronic tinnitus and the glass. I lifted the quilt and sat on the side of the bed to hear better. It was like lowering myself onto the first step down into a swimming pool as the cold wrapped my legs and arms my bare feet whispered on the floor.

I pulled the window shade aside, and looked up, trying not to make a sound. The lower tree branches were black silhouettes against the starlit sky. I couldn’t see the owls, but I imagined they could see me.

Also invisible in the dark, the virus washed over the world, buzzing like a Dremel inside human cells and on hard surfaces.

But what a gift — the wild voices and unconcern of night predators, the thrill of being close without fear in the certainty that I was not their prey.

 

March 22, 2020, Freeville, NY, USA. ©Patti Witten, all rights reserved.

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