when i used to live in new mexico…
Watching and caring for the chickens and ducks obsessively has tuned me in to the slight variances in each bird’s voice and personality. I can tell whose egg is whose. I can differentiate between Roy’s morning crow and that of the neighbor’s identical bird. Our two ducks are inseparable – the gray one is loud and obstinate, the black one soft and quiet, but I can tell when one can’t find the other, and which one is more disturbed. Each of the hawks and falcons that hunt over the orchard next door have their own shrieks and preferred trees – I have always checked them, now even more so as I ask them daily to leave our chickens alone. I am maybe home too much, or I am maybe developing a deeper awareness of my surroundings. The three owls calling to each other tonight have their own breathy hoots, too, discernible by just the slightest change in pitch.
I am in prayer pose. There are a few days each month where I cease a regular, twice-daily yoga practice. They center on the new moon – I crawl into myself, aching and swollen and ripe with darkness and then, suddenly there’s a glorious release of all this and I can unfold and realign. And it’s in this beautiful, bloody state of redemption that I am in prayer pose listening to owls call back and forth.
It is a night of quiet – the wind isn’t yet blowing, the dog isn’t yet snoring (like everyone else in this house she has an active dream life). Michael has ceased chanting in the living room. I have assembled my pocketful of meditation accessories – pipe, lighter, candle, crystal, pillow and a five-year old, well-traveled chunk of palo santo, its smoke and scent a sacred eraser, its effect burned into my brain during some of the most intense and encompassing experiences I’ve ever had (so far, at least). It is these items, consistently arranged, that come out at night as I unfurl my yoga mat and face myself, seated beneath an expanse of stars.
It is silent, all of it. The wind waits with my breath. I listen to the owls acutely. God is watching this, hearing the prayers of one little human with her forehead on the floor. My tiny beseechings are puny and pathetic and god hears them anyway and sends angels to laugh at my needless desires. It is in this humbling way that I know I have been heard.
It starts with one single whine and then the coyotes kick up their chorus. It is never long enough but tonight, face down in gratitude I listen to this twilight symphony, to these wild and wily predators that see in the dark as they serenade outside my window. Interspersed with the coyotes’ yips and howls are the owls, still quietly differentiating themselves. God speaks to me with wind and tricksters and birds of prey. And it is also that god isn’t speaking to me at all – I am just here in the presence of this, and a part of it.
It is over nearly as fast as it begins. It is just enough for me to realize I’ve been provided with a map through this dark place, that I have a song of wild freedom to sing. It lasts only as long as it takes for me to realize I am giving thanks for both the experience and the ability to remember.
The coyotes slink back into the shadows as the dusky calls of the owls continue on into the night. I fall asleep to this, and the next night I fall asleep to the wind. It, too, is singing the same hoot and howl, this primitive, natural chant.
I leave the window cracked an inch. My flute, as it turns out, is propped in just such a way that the wind, given that hairline chance, will come in and play it for me. there is something about this sound, this oooooooooooo, ooooooooooooooohm, hoo hoo hoo whoooooo, like the sound of a concentrated, cleansing exhale, a sound of juiciness, pleasure and satisfaction. It is an ejaculation, an ululation, a wilderness song. A wildness song of joy and full expression in the midst of darkness, or perhaps even because of it.