The Owl and the Maples

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The owl waits on the branch of a cedar tree. I drift closer. He looks at me. I pause, there, among the ferns, and atop the old, creek-sweetened leaves. I cross my arms over my chest. I stand still. The owl raises and lowers his wings. This is not a threat, but a stretch. Our eyes meet, for a moment. He looks away. Slowly, and with great patience. He’s not afraid of me. We are simply two animals in the forest. I stand for a great long while. I watch. Wherever the owl looks, I look. A crow calls from across the creek, and the owl’s head whirls backward. A squirrel whistles from the top of the maple, and the owl’s head shoots up. But after every disruption, the owl glances at the sky with something like reverence, and then he closes his eyes, just briefly. The wind blows. We both look up. All at once, the samaras fall from the maples. Like rain. Hundreds of them, twirling as they fall, a rust-brown the color of bark. I remember being a kid and throwing them up in the air, just to see them twirl down like helicopters. Now they are falling of their own accord. The owl and I watch. We breathe. Not one samara hits me. Not one. They fall around me, at my feet. I pick one up, and I throw it in the air.

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