She wanted me to show her where the owls lived. We'd already hiked three miles straight up a hill and my calves are on fire and cramped up in knotted burning; now she brings this owl thing up as we sit at the top of the bluff overlooking the valley below and I'm still catching my breath. We have a great view of the sun going down—it's real salmon pink blending to day-glo orange to cream all washed out meeting the horizon line. And I'm that bliss tired that makes you feel Zen empty, and she breaks it by asking right then, all soft like she knows she has to sneak it in: "I want you to show me the owls..."

Normally I could get out of this with a cool, low, constant breathing out, just as soft, like some diversion, some disclaimer. But I'm sort of fucked as I just told her about these owls last night when we were up on my parents' roof waiting for meteors. This girl shit is new for me; pretty much before the last year it was just me and plants (I like plants) and animals (ditto) and hiking and camping and being all-round hermity, as I find it outright unnatural being prodded and read and being expected to respond when amongst other humans. All around awful, really. So this is why I know where the owls live, and, because I feel she might be likeminded in this socially awkward way, I fessed up. I told her all the hours I spent prostrate in the dirt, how I would lie under that tree where the owls live, lie in the grass for hours from sunset on, waiting despite the dewy earth soaking through my jeans and into my boxers. And I don't think she gave a shit about these owls or my interest in them until I told her how they sounded when they flew. And how it sounds, err... how it has sounded during their egresses all this fall lying in the trampled grass-turned-mud-from-an-early snow is really something. It's surprisingly loud.

I told her all this the night before. She's heavy into this poet Mary Oliver—all this poetry obsessed with birds. And this girl who's begging me for owls, wouldn't you know that she's from the fucking city. She's never really gotten a bird not from books, so she looks at me in that way someone who just lost their mother looks at a medium.

So I tell her I'll lead her to these owls I know. We start back down the hill, choosing a trail made by deer rather than the one we came up on. And it's getting that kind of twilight you don't want to be in woods this thick, so I get that nervous feeling you get when you know the woods—that creeping urgent closing in of being lost in the dark. At this point I am tearing through some questionable growth; poison ivy and oak ain't shit compared to impenetrable night stuck in this fervid vacuum. So of course this is when she fucking sees the owl. And it's in a tree, a dead tree, trunk hollow and the damn thing's ancient and burned up by lightning; no foliage at all. And flowing upwards from the hollow comes this owl all downy white and wide-eyed yellow; it