Late last night, after J and I walked home from another Boston College hockey game and as I stood by the the backyard dog-pen waiting for Reggie to finish sniffing and peeing before we all turned in for the night, I heard a great horned owl hooting low and near in the fringe of tall pines separating J’s house from our neighbors: a sound deep and throaty, like the night’s own purr.
It’s not uncommon to see red-tailed hawks in Newton, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear their nocturnal counterpart. If there are enough squirrels in the Boston suburbs to feed red-tails, surely there are enough skunks, squirrels, and other edible things to feed great horned owls. But still, the sound of deep woods in one’s own backyard seems uncanny and odd: where is it, I wonder, that I’ve been living, and who’s been living alongside me, unseen? If I were superstitious, I’d wonder what sort of omen an owl offers when he calls late at night on Friday the 13th at a house with three black cats, but fortunately the naturalist in me triumphs over the triskaidekaphobe.
This morning, I could find no owls in the towering pines that fringe the dog-pen, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t (or haven’t been) there. Now that I know Reggie and I aren’t necessarily alone when I take him outside for one last sniff-and-pee before bed, I’ll be more aware of my surroundings, on alert for the things that go wooooooh in the night.