Posts Tagged ‘I Heard the Owl Call my Name’

A week ago we had an unexpected but welcome guest arrive at our house. It was late evening, we had gotten the kids into bed, though neither one had yet given into sleep. Jane and I were both reading, when we slowly became aware of a strange sound coming from outside.

Initially we thought the sound was coming from a neighborhood dog, howling somewhere in the distance. Our big dog was at the foot of the bed sleeping, our little yapping terrier had already been put to bed, and our cat’s distinct yowl comes from directly below the window, never above and to the left (our room is on the second floor).

As the calls made their way through book induced fog and into the small portions of our brain still conscious to reality, we simultaneously came to the conclusion that we had something else outside our window.

The sounds were very distinct, and so perfect in repetition that I thought for a while it may have been a neighborhood child with a new toy. The calls were: hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo; then a pause and repeat. The first two low calls were identical, the third a bit lower and then the last higher than the prior three.

Wide awake now, with our minds returning first to Alaska and then our home, we quickly recognized this as an owl. (I know, it should have been obvious to begin with.) We called Jolie and Ali into our room and turned out the lights, listening to the owl call for another 5 minutes before it went quiet.

In the meantime, I rounded up our bird books to see what owls made a similar call. Neither book had much information on calls, but my grandmother’s old bird book described the call of the Great Horned Owl as 4 to 7 low hoots, not too far off what we had heard. Jolie and Ali recreated the call as follows (Jane refused to give a hoot):

Ali hoot

Jolie hoot

Eventually we got the kids settled down and back in bed. We resumed reading and eventually went to sleep. Both Jane and I woke up later in the night, hearing the call from a greater distance and elevation. Until then, I had retained some doubt that it might have been a child or jokester, but hearing the call at three confirmed it was unlikely. If it was either, I take consolation in that it was a cold evening and I’ll have the opportunity to write their obituary when they are pulled from a snow bank in the spring breakup.

Getting back to civility, the following day I started researching owl calls on the internet. I came across this recording, which is very, very close to what we heard and we think confirms our unknown hooter as a Great Horned Owl. Great Horned Owl Call This is a great website on owls; there are some nice photos and additional information on owls. www.owlpages.com One site states that the Great Horned Owl can take prey as large as a cat or small dog. If I had known that the night we had our visiting owl, I may have even had time to put Lucy, the terrier, out before Jane had figured out what I was up to.

While researching owls, I came across the book title “I Heard the Owl Call my Name” by Margaret Craven. Apparently it was a NY Times Bestseller, back when I was learning to run and talk in 1973. It is based upon the British Columbian Kwakiutl Tribe’s belief that before you die you hear an owl call your name. It is a wonderful thought, and I can’t think of a better way to receive the news of my impending death than from the mysterious and seemingly omniscient owl. And without trying I’ve now added another book to my book list, which seems to be growing exponentially.

I will confess, however, that I am glad I couldn’t make out my name in the owl’s call the other night. I assume I wouldn’t hear it if it called someone else’s name. Can you imagine getting the news from someone other than the owl; “Hey dude, I heard this owl call your name, man. You are soooo dead.”

Fortunately, nobody else in the house has confessed to hearing the owl call their name, nor are they acting particularly nervous. Except maybe Lucy.

“Here Luce, come on Lucy, let’s go outdoors. I think there’s an owl calling your name…….”


Read Full Post »