on march 25, 1987, on a night claustrophobic with clouds and darkness, i sat in my truck at the end of a stretch of asphalt. with lights off, nothing was familiar and in an instant, i became a stranger in a strange land.
months of preparation and apprehension and procrastination stirred in my cerebral blender. i knew what i was going to do, yet had not fully come to accept why i was going to do it.
with the engine shut off, i stepped out of the overheated cab and stood alone in the cold and the dark. i was the only person in the world.
with that tentative first step my life changed irrevocably.
since then, i have spent the past 24 springs listening for songs and calls of purpose. owl songs in an owl spring.
darkness. moonlight. sickness. health. life. death. joy. despair. depression. elation. contempt. lucidity. wisdom. disdain. exuberance. bliss. confusion.
the privilege has not been lost on me.
to put it all into perspective, consider this: since 1987, i have surveyed over 7,000 miles in 0.5 mile increments; 3 minutes per stop or well over 14,000 stops in a sometimes noisy, and sometimes silent landscape. i have spent 40 (plus) consecutive 24-hour periods simply listening for owls. throw in radio telemetry, behavior indexing, nest visits, nest box construction, banding and damn, it’s no wonder i am completely dysfunctional outside of the owling season.
2011 will be my 25th year. or will it?
my passion has eroded and i am easily distracted. the boreal owl, the focus of my passion is largely gone now and i have had a hard time dealing with its absence. once, the owl was a constant nocturnal companion. now, my surveys have turned into saw-whet extravaganzas. trucks backing up in the night….the beep beep beeps of hormonally-charged cavity nesters.
funding from the forest service is gone. they have dangled a vehicle at me for 2011, but i consider it an insult. they clamor for my data knowing that without it, there is no federal finger on the pulse that is the northern forest owl community. take a look at the national forest management act of 1978 and you will see what is required of those in the khaki and green. all along, i guess i have been doing much of their work for them.
for most of the winter, while immersed in sweat-induced nordic jaunts or just sitting in my chair, i have come perilously close to saying “fuck it.” i have sought counsel. i have tried to be a strigidaen optimist. i couldn’t make up my mind on whether to continue.
then the answer came and it seemed easy.
i have to do it for me.