by Clare Acerno
“There’s been a hoot owl howling by my window now for six nights in a row.”
— Wildfire, by Michael Murphey
Jesus sent me a hoot owl at a very young age. He’s been outside my window six hours…six days, six years…no, I lie, I do that a lot. I lie, mostly to myself. Really it’s been six eons, wisdom gathering foreverness through sounds, chords, words. Sung right outside my window free for the taking, if I so choose to listen.
For as far back as I can remember, owl hoots wisdom to me just as I close my day. His vibrations collect in images, ideas, half dreams, shooting knowledge in me. When I was three or four years old, I would fly out of my body, hovering just above my bed. I saw things as an owl would, apart from myself. He would ask me to see more, to go fly with him, but I was scared. I’d swoop back into my body. Owl power was too much.
I had older sisters and brothers to remind me what was real, make daylight solid. If I didn’t want to believe, I could touch the cold metal scissors that tried to slice my big sister’s animal out of her middle. The scar was bright and long, right under her shirt. Or I could bite on a bitter rubberband while electricity shot it out of me. It didn’t work for my brother, though: He was still wild.
No animals were allowed in the house: no dogs, no cats, no turtles, not even a goldfish. I knew my siblings had animal power too. I’m just not sure which animals chose them, or if they allowed their animals to seep in. We never talked about those things. My mother definitely had animal wisdom and although her animal was loud, she was programmed never to listen. My mom’s animal was beautiful and strong. Sometimes her feline would nudge me or purr softly and I’d get our animal powers mixed up. I’d have a house full of cats now, but I’m allergic. My dad had his horses but there were so many and they raced in circles, too fast to stop and talk. I don’t think he was a listener anyway. If my father had talked to us, he would have said animal power was a figment of the imagination, a ghost, a fairytale and that there was no such thing as an owl giving me messages of wisdom and love.
I wanted to believe in the humans so I’d wait for the Flintstones to come on TV Friday nights, and ask for Welsh’s grape jelly to put on my saltines, salt and sweet to daze my senses. I would take off my tiny toddler shoes and hypnotize myself with Buster Browns wink, hear Buster’s dog bark happily. Neatly place each shoe next to my pillow at night for protection.
Sisters and brothers gathered at my pudgy knees. They recognized my wisdom, even though I was the youngest, they knew. I’d read from the pictures in my Golden books and when my stories were too much for them my brothers would chase me around the dining room table with their eyelids inside out, chanting, “Mrs. MacGregor, I’m going to cook you for Thanksgiving dinner!” I would be the holiday bird, cooked to tender golden perfection, chewed and swallowed. Maybe then they’d know their animal.
Lots of music played in our house, dancing still can help me listen. Music was a pool of warm water to swim in, quieting the noise of us through the many years of my marriages, mirages, and my own children. Owl wisdom was faint, I rarely listened anyway. o\Only snippets of remembering as I struggled. Sending wrecking crews of my own makings. I set up boundaries with my own limbs to keep out truth.
I collected trinkets, glass, ceramic, metal, paper mache owls. Silent they sat on shelves as I busied myself, taking care of the mess I made.
I’m trying to remember now, if only for short periods. I’m in this life I live. I’m human. Days are tossed in closets that I will never open again. Hoarded piles grow bigger and bigger. I wash the sleep out of my eyes with cold water and do my day.
I asked Jesus to send her again, my archangel. Owl is here with me. I feel it. I’m listening to her now as she sits on her perch, blinks a feathered wish for me. My head turns side to side. I tell her I’m sorry I tried so hard to drown her out. But she says there is nothing to be sorry for; in her world, nothing happened. She sits, peaceful and knowing. I write this for her. I’m listening to her now, finally.
About Clare Acerno
Claire Acerno’s writing is inspired from the day to day. She is a house frau, mom, grandmother, actor, dreamer. She is a nobody’s nobody. An everyday multi-tasker. She lifts her eyes upward and in when looking straight ahead is too much.