screech owl

A bird of few words is my friend Screech Owl, who visits most nights, sometime between two and four a.m. I’m always awake, the only one in my home awake, the only one who has ever heard him, and so ours is a confidential conversation. He trills for five minutes or so, and then he has said his piece, leaving a more silent silence in his place. All day long the pine trees and cedars, the brushy, wild olives, and grassy planes of my yard are filled with singing, lilting, cawing, chattering birds. They barely stop for breath, all day long. My friend Screech Owl is more like me. We talk when we have something important to say, and we like our silences.

While we are compatible in many important ways, Partner and I fall apart in this area. As much as I love him, he is a chatty man. Day to day, we mostly work out a balance, but sometimes, and especially on long car trips, we clash in a major way. He likes conversation while he is driving. Totally understandable, and yet I am so completely unable to keep up my end for more than an hour or so. Unless I’m specifically socializing, preferably with red wine, or discussing something of substance, I am a deeply meditative person–in the car, in a waiting room, on the back porch, in the john, on a line. Where am I for chrissake, people ask. I am traversing the quiet desert space inside me, completely content under the endless blue sky which meets the endless sand at an endless horizon. There are silent conversations inside conversations and thoughts within thoughts going on in here. The past, present, and future are all jumbled up in the same time-space and require disentangling. Revelations are unfolding. Poems are writing themselves. Fellow travelers are rarely invited. Don’t they have their own deserts calling?

Loving Partner and Friend, feeling alone on some boring stretch of highway to Pittsburgh or Louisville, points out things I am obviously missing along the road. In the absence of anything better, he reads random signs, aloud. Suffering from a mild case of dyslexia, he often reads them incorrectly. I am driven nearly mad. “Penny Pitcher Auto Sales” he will announce. “Mmm-hmm,” I say, because he non-verbally begs a response from me, so I come mentally stomping back from my private place. “And anyway it was “Penny PINCHER Auto Sales,” I say inside my head, bothered in some stupid and indescribable way by the incorrect reading of the sign. It seems important that I set the world right again by correcting his misreading of this totally insignificant human artifact, but I don’t, because I am a conscious enough person to know that this would be highly irritating. I just don’t want to deal with it–the sign, correcting the sign, his need for me to interact. I want to drift back to my edgeless desert, my bottomless lake, my mountains that peak somewhere above the clouds, and think my thoughts. A story line, the best sentence I’ve ever written, or the answer I’m seeking, I am sure, has died on the highway next to the Penny Pincher Auto Sales billboard. It’s likely that I am not much fun on road trips.



  1. Posted August 17, 2008 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    Reminds me of a long road trip years ago with Faceplant Dave. I was excited to be on a roadtrip. Excited to be hanging out with the quiet Dave. A few days into the trip, driving through the Mojave Desert, Dave says after a long period of protracted silence: “You know, sometimes when you say, ‘Hey, look at that,’ I’ve already looked at that.”

    Okay then.

  2. yogazulu
    Posted August 19, 2008 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I remember that story every time I’m on a car trip with the partner person. I don’t want to be anti-smalltalk, but it’s genetic or something.

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