He watched the path down where the it came out from under the buckbrush. Something just out of sight was coming towards him. It was much louder than he would have thought anything that would fit under there could be. True, the sound of it's passage, more ambling than charging, seemed louder because of the many seasons' worth of fallen oak leaves there.
Little Head-Bob the owl sat on the black oak branch some thirty feet up from the ground. He listened with unease, even though he knew the odds of anything down there being a threat to him up here were pretty slim. He was learning gradually to not make rash moves over hasty conclusions about what were often, really, non-threats.
More than once he had leapt from the safe comfortable nest into the roaring campfire, so to speak, just to get away from nothing. When he told this observation to his mate she responded that he had gotten awfully wordy, no doubt from spending too much time around humans.
The old turtle paid attention to everything as he moved through the woods. He felt the brittle crackling of the dry leaves under his feet and the small sticks scraping along the sides of his shell. He heard the wind in the trees. He smelled the prickly pear fruit, just ripe, up there next to the sandstone place.
He might enjoy that if he got up there, perhaps even this afternoon if he kept a steady pace. He couldn't see that far with his near sighted turtle-vision, but he could certainly almost taste the cactus fruit. Were prickly pears worth traipsing around out in the open up on the sandstone? He knew sometimes hungry coyotes howled there in the night.
He stopped and thought about that and about the great horned owl sitting in the tree on the edge of the little clearing just ahead. He drew into his shell then, closing the door in front of his eyes.
It had been many seasons since he had, as a tiny shelled hatch-ling, crossed paths with a great horned owl. He had survived that then and he was pretty sure it was no real threat to him now. Still, it made him anxious.
Turtles' long memories gave them plenty of things to think about, plenty of things to stay in about. At least Bobby's memories did. There in his cozy shell, insulated from outside concerns, he fell into a half dosing kind of sleep as the morning turned to noon.
Bob dreamt of walking the path through the woods on the hill, up towards the old sandstone. His perspective seemed curiously skewed. He was seeing the woods from a bit above what he thought of as his normal perspective. Still he was not up as high as say, a bird gliding through the trees searching for poor slow little things to pounce upon. He saw himself wondering why he had thought of it that way. Walking along in his dream he hummed an old tune about a broken arrow and a bottle of rain to make himself feel calmer, but then he couldn't remember why.
He bolted upright in his bed wide-eyed at the sound of one word, one syllable spoken loudly, somewhere in the room right there next to him. He looked over at his wife. Sound asleep, she had her head buried under the pillow. She had surely not made that sound. The room was silent now. All he could hear was the ringing in his ears. The Ring said nearly nothing. Just *
He got out of bed and walked into his son's room. Nothing. He walked down the stairway, through the living room, the dining room, the kitchen. Nothing. He blinked once, slowly, there in the kitchen, in the dark.
Bobby shook himself awake inside his shell and opened his eyes. It felt as though something had been reset in his mind, in his... feelings. Never mind, he saw himself think. He could feel it was warming up out there now and he opened his shell and started off through the underbrush.
He vaguely recalled being anxious about something that had startled him. Some sound, some sharp intake of information, unsought and unprepared for. He stepped out of the concealing brush.
Owls didn't need to concern him now he thought, though every now and then one might come down to rasp stark warnings about the nature of crows and clack it's sharp beak at him. They tended to vocalize their opinions too much he thought. Most things did. The old turtle walked resolutely past the big owl's perch as it watched him now, in stony silence.
Bobby liked the mourning doves though. Their soft murmurings as they tucked each other in, to keep safe through the night, comforted him greatly sometimes. The sound meant something tender, and hopeful, and brave.
It reminded him of the promise of spring, heard and tasted even in the chill fall air as he would be going into some dark den to hibernate, perhaps never to come out again.
He smelled the sweet prickly pears again as he stepped out of the trees, up onto the warm sandstone, and into the full open sunlight.
He heard the mourning doves cooing softly, somewhere, just behind him.
For your listening pleasure:
"Broken Arrow" Robbie Robertson, Acoustic cover by Mr. Brad Cole