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The Owl and The Tree

Updated: Jan 13

The Owl and The Tree

I heard an owl hooting a bit after midnight; I suppose it was he who woke me up. He was in the maple tree in the backyard, near the bedroom window. It is a great spot for an owl; my chickens live near there and offer the owl deceptive hope for a generous midnight feast and an old compost bed rich with earthworms and insect carcasses still exists near there. My chickens are locked safely in their nighttime cages; sorry Mr. Owl, but they will not be hunted by you. But the small field mice, the ones that I hear in the evening roaming through the cavities of the firewood rack and squeaking, precious, tiny squeaks that make people say ‘eek’, I fear, are not safe. They will be successfully sought.

I could not fall back asleep after I heard the hooting owl. It was impossible, the freeway in my head started…scenes from the day before collected, concerns of the day ahead encircled, episodes and situations from childhood, mine and my children, sat there waiting for stringent evaluation, virtual packing for a trip took place, and then there was the owl. In an effort to fall back into sleep, my annoying nocturnal thoughts landed there, with the hooting owl. I thought of him in wonder… how did he become associated with wisdom and where was he throughout the day? And the forlorn hooting, what was that about? It was an expected sound, a pureness of the natural world…a hooting owl, but why? Anyway, like the owl, sleep did not come…

Within my somewhat desolate nocturnal thoughts, I thought of a quick snapshot from long, long ago, from 1962. It was of a tree and a place. I was a child, and much was different then. The natural world was a fundamental part of my life. There were trees everywhere with Spanish moss hanging from their ancient and regal boughs and only scatterings of farmhouses could be seen in the countryside and the stores were all on Main Street filled with shoppers on Saturdays; it was a quaint and beautiful town with unique customs and friendly people, it was the Queen City on the Teche. I lived in a place surrounded by woodland, a new subdivision called Little Woods. It seemed far away from everything; it was near Bayou Teche and just a few families lived there.

My restless thoughts continued and brought me to a place across a very old bridge. There was a small structure near the soon to be replaced bridge; I suppose a bridge-keeper lived there and there was a general store at the end of the road. The store was old and wooden and off the ground. It was framed by massive Live Oak trees and seemingly in the middle of nowhere. My mother would take me there sometimes for corn suckers…a sucker crudely shaped like a corn cob and in it, sometimes, if you were lucky, was a coin, a penny or a nickel. I suppose she would buy a bit of groceries there also; I just remember the grape-flavored corn sucker.

My memory is so slight and foggy and my mother, my historian, is not here to help me with the recollection, but I do remember the feeling of that very old store. It was dark and silent inside and there was a long wooden counter where the corn suckers were. Then, one day not long after, the old store was gone.

Sadly, I have just learned the ancient Live Oak tree that stood next to it, is, now, gone also. It was there for over a hundred years, a link to our past and an icon of our culture. It bravely weathered hurricanes and avoided lightning strikes and sat there near the Teche quietly and majestically offering a home for owls and squirrels and beauty for the passersby. Soon, there will be no memory of the old store or the majestic tree.

Soon, cement and consumerism will be all we see and all we know.

Pam Shensky

Berry Tales

December 10, 2023

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