after the sun set, but before it was replaced by darkness, everything was perfect. the winds died, the clouds disappeared and there was less run-off noise in the landscape than anticipated. there was enough light to watch the woodcock spiral up several hundred feet and return to earth in stoops and stalls before getting back to the importance of peenting. a grouse dined on swollen aspen buds. a snipe winnowed across a bog, whose tussock sedges have been loosed from the bonds of winter. but then, the robins started in and you know what?
i don’t like robins.
they are like the ungrateful houseguest who bitches about the food, or the view, or the host. when they finally shut up, i am sure their last conscious thought was “i can’t wait to get up in the morning and bitch some more.” if any species can throw cold water on a nocturnal, springtime evening, it is the robin. i mean, their scientific name is turdus migratorius. turdus…good one, mr. linneaus.
last night, just as ambience was tilting in my direction, the robins wouldn’t stop. and it isn’t like saw-whet singing ethic (“okay guys…i’m singing here, stay the fuck away from where i’m singing from”…). no, robins congregate and so, it effectively turns into group bitching.
deep breaths, owlman.
darkness is the great equalizer though, and soon the robins were stilled and the night shift began.
twice, the space station passed overhead. there were meteorites and the stars were not bleached out by moonlight. it was warm. it was calm. i was absolutely wired on caffeine and sour patch gummy bears. there were owls.
at one point, i realized how easy this used to be. not easy as in, “stay up all night?…no problem.” but easy as in, the owls used to be right there. once, there were boreal owl nests i could observe from my truck. once, there were no panoramic vistas because the horizons were blocked by forest. once, i could go weeks without seeing anyone on the back roads. once, cross-country journeys to distant owls defined a challenge i never refused. but, a good night then, driven by the internal machinations that i had to find owls, has been replaced by the realization that a good night now means i actually enjoy being where i am, when i am…in the middle of everywhere.
when the clock tickled 0130, and the gummy bears had lost their magic, i was done. only the 45 minute drive stood between me and blissful sleep. twelve saw-whets and the first drumming grouse of the year (very, very unusual…this late), the woodcock, the station, the grouse in the aspen, the zodiacal light, the stars, the planets, the isolation, the stinky fleece, the roar of released water, the smell of the earth, the screaming back, the common goldeneyes, the musk of mustellids, the fresh unblemished snow, the wisps of winds through white pines, and another night in the boreal forest that even the robins couldn’t ruin.