by Ellen Taylor
….based on a true story occurring in the Mattole Watershed, July 2019
One still June night, when the moon hung bright, and the wind blew a minor key
And the fog made a bridge across Rainbow Ridge from the redwoods to the sea
Two owls, gone astray from their range in Coos Bay where their nest in a fir had been felled
Floated down to a knoll near the blue Mattole, by sheer hunger and faintness compelled.
Well, they’d fasted a week, so each sharpened his beak, and searched through the darkness for prey,
And to their surprise they encountered the eyes of two tree voles not far away.
More astonishing yet, and causing upset, also thwarting their instinct to zoom in:
The voles took their ease on the angular knees of a beast unmistakably human.
These owls were not chicks and they’d studied the tricks of this species well known to be wily.
Was this a new study? Each looked at their buddy. The human regarded them shyly.
Though weary, these owls had got pluck in their bowels, also wit, self-assurance and poise.
And though prospects be dark, be there but a spark, they’d act without panic or noise.
So the owl who was bigger soon marshalled his vigor, saluting the being in that tree:
“What scientist sits in a tree in the mist, with such tasty young voles on their knee?”
“My name it is Rook. Turn around, take a look” said the human, with intake of breath:
Below they beheld what the chainsaw had felled: tree corpses moon-frozen in death.
“This tree they want too, so a road can push through to reach forests at further locations
But we know such plunder rips planets asunder. I’m here for unborn generations”.
The owls, much impressed, now the human addressed: “We’ve just made a strenuous portage
From habitat natal, where there is a fatal owl nesting and foraging shortage.”
The smaller owl, blinking, went on” We’ve been thinking of one generation that begs
To make an appearance. We need to find clearance. To speak more directly, my eggs.
Now, humans get queasy: it makes them uneasy when species like us go extinct
It reminds them that they might soon go the same way and the risk, to be plain, is distinct.
Our survival’s in doubt, so that gives us some clout. If they locate our nest, they’ll protect it!
We’ll search for a site in a tree that looks right, then build noisily so they detect it.”
The owls disappeared, and that day Rook was cheered by much squawking and owl exclamation
And soon a small horde of biologists roared to the ridge for site documentation.
And thus was begun a campaign that soon won the allegiance of Doctors of Science:
For if there is hope for our planet, the scope is a great interspecies alliance.
Save the owls! Save the trees! Save the whales! Save the bees! Save the birthright of fledgling and child
For while Empires crush, there’s an instant of hush when our hearts hear the call of the wild.