When the central highland winds howl through the valley and rattle the windows of our house on the hill, shaking and bending the juniper and pinion trees I see beyond the shuddering panes, my body and mind still brace for the only thing that comes of such blustery warnings to the Midwestern me.
The menacing advance of a fearsome storm.
Intense and unforgiving.
I feel my body – tense and taut – bracing for the worst with each swollen
Pacing through the house.
Anxious for it to stop.
Or me to move.
So my dogs and I head out for our walk, prepared for a fight against tempests and cold and I’m ever surprised to find the winds far more kind than I imagined.
Mellowed by the sun’s abiding strength.
Layers are shed at the start of our walk and the warm, constant breezes now push me, Frank and Nellie to the chapparal below, where I know the sweeping winds will blow much gentler music across the tall grass. And at my back, urge me forward toward to the far fence line where the pronghorn often graze.
But downwind today, well warned of our arrival, they’re likely to have scattered; prompting me to turn against the wind and start a circuitous loop back home.
Toward the scrub oak and junipers.
Shelter and shade.
And the shadowy scent of Mountain Lilac blossoming profusely in the wake of generous winter rains.
The gentle fragrance of this rugged bush, appears and disappears with the shifting winds, lifting my spirits with each sweet return, as I wander up and down the hills with my two, most joyful companions.
The world in their noses turned into the breezes.
Close to home, I see a Great Horned Owl take to the air just a few feet ahead.
I hear one, grand flap of his wings. And then nothing.
A familiar shadow among the neighborhood trees, I track his flight and see him perch again in a pine, up the hill and up ahead, and I follow with glee.
From tree to tree.
Hidden among the dark, green boughs of an old, domed Juniper, heavy with pollen, the owl waits. But just as we near, off he goes, higher up the hill and closer to home, past the scattered remains of a long dead tree which lay like a skeleton, gray and sunbleached, exactly where it fell.
Pursuing him again to yet another tree, it’s as if the owl is hunting me. For, there, in a clearing of branches, the great hunter sits.
Quietly watching us move up the hill.
Allowing me the perfect view of this very perfect predator.
Staring still, my eyes meet his, until he decides we’ve come close enough.
And that is that.
He spreads his wings and disappears, without a sound, among the pinion near the old pit mine.
I try to reconnect at a fourth tree ahead, but instead, meet a noisy grackle balanced at the top of the tree where I hoped the Great Horned Owl would be. But he has already continued on his way, up the hill, over a fenceline, and out of my sight.
Certain we’re not out of his, I scan the trees on the hill in vain.
Unleashing the dogs, Nellie’s off in a dash in her fruitless pursuit of chasing small reptile.
Zigging and zagging, but never succeeding.
I think she’s just teasing.
My call for her cuts through the wind and the white-noised silence.
Until the music of the wild winds in the scrub oaks and the pines, in the final footsteps home, help me find my peace and place again.