Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pitch Black Darkness...and the Owls

During winter, Highway 101 is back to back with red tail lights on weeknight commute hours.  So it is with relief when I see the small, green sign on the right where I can get off the rat race backup and head down the dark country road that eventually will take me to my driveway on the outskirts of town.
Immediately, I click on the high beams.  I love high beams.  It signals…you are in the country and it is dark…truly pitch black dark out there.
Horror movies have ruined the loveliness of that experience for some.  What creature is out there that will sneak up on and maim you while you are sitting by the side of the road in the dark…all alone and squeaking with fright?
Really? Sigh.
Growing up in the country and with only 3 tv stations that came thru on our roof top antenna, these negative images luckily were never ingrained in my thick country farm girl skull.  Horrible reports of criminals breaking into desolated country homes, robbing the inhabitants…did not exist?  I loved taking long walks down thru the pitch blackness of our crumbling gravel road.
All you had to do was look up, and then you saw you were truly not alone.  The majesty of the Milky Way takes the breath away.
Magic.

Back in current time, there is magic also along this country road, but it is very fleeting.  Rolling slowly down past the Jersey Farm, the high beams pick out the glint of barbed wire fences along the fields.  The road digs deep in the hillside and curves through stands of old overhanging tree limbs, creating a tunnel effect…and right after the tunnel?  That is where suddenly, if you are lucky, the headlights pick up flashes of white flirting thru the sky in front of you.  A flish here off a tree limb, a flash there to the right of white on the barbed wire fence, sometimes repeating 8 times before you come to the stop at the intersection 2 miles down out of the trees.

Barn Owls are out looking for their midnight snack.  Some are sitting patiently on the barbed wire, their eyes barely turning to look at you as the high beams glint off their white bodies.  Others are startled out of their reverie and fly off, a bright flash of white wings, to find a more secluded spot to hunt. One little feathered body after another on the fence line, prospecting their own tiny territory of roadway for juicy morsels that may immerge from the grasses to cross the road and expose themselves to some very watchful eyes.

Pitch black darkness.
 Magic.
 And, oh yes… horror.
 Nature’s horror--if you are that little mouse out for a stroll.

                                                                                            copyright 2013 Stepka