Standing on my porch, I hear the owl call. Deep and low, his voice rumbles through the dark, still trees. He’s quite close tonight, and I consider calling to him, but a second call echoes from deep within the woods, and I realize that he has someone else altogether on his mind tonight. He calls again from his lofty perch, and my eyes comb the branches for his shadowy silhouette, or the glint of a dark eye, but I find only the flicker of bright little stars shining in the crystal clear night sky.
I feel an affinity for my feathered friend; a bond of sorts. We’ve sat quietly and communed together on several occasions, he from a branch in a nearby oak, and I sitting quietly on my porch. We're equally curious, I think, but both content to simply watch. Once he came very close, only yards from the house, to sit and watch my puppies playing in the yard. I, in turn, have ventured into his domain, flashlight in hand, casting his children in tiny spotlights as they called out, announcing their hunger in soft, airy voices.
I have to laugh, thinking of the times that his smaller cousin the screech owl, has left me bolt-upright in bed at 3 o’clock in the morning, his shrieking scream still rattling my bones, as his soft ‘who, who, who’ echoes like laughter outside my window.
The squirrels who throw acorns at my dogs and chew holes in my bird feeder, the horses that whinny and neigh in the fields beyond the woods, and damn the mosquitoes, but yeah, even the bugs – the chorus of crickets and the masterful spiders weaving magnificent, delicate webs that sparkle with dew in the morning light...these are the reasons that I live way out here.
Not that “way out here” is as far as you might think.
I can be in downtown Raleigh in 15 minutes. Downtown Cary too, for that matter, were I so inclined. And the office? Well, occasionally I time it wrong and get trapped in the long line of cars, a well-ordered flock of little colored sheep, moving slowly, mindlessly down the path; But most times I’m only minutes away. And “away” is definitely the operative word.
You see, the world is an amazing place. It’s also a very, very big place. Start moving in any direction, and there’s no limit to where you can go, what you can see, and what you can do. In my relatively short lifetime, I’ve been terrified, intrigued, enraptured, seduced, and overwhelmed by it. I’ve seen things I want to remember forever, and things I pray I might someday forget. There have been moments of true peace on the top of a mountain and moments of incredible insight in a conference room. Life has had surprises waiting for me at every turn.
In self-defense I've had to become more responsible, more observant and more humble than I ever really wanted to be. I've also had to learn to relax, to trust, and lord knows I've had to learn to laugh. As a result I’ve learned that I can handle pretty much anything life throws at me or takes from me.
And I love that. I really do. I love the idea that I really just never know what's going to happen next, or what I'm going to do about it.
But I wasn't always like that. Not by a long stretch.
As a kid I was a bookworm. Skinny, scrawny, shy and dorky. I loved adventure and fantasy novels (still do, when I can find time to read), and having two brothers I got into my share of trouble. Camping, snowmobiling, riding our dirt bikes...I had my little adventures, but they never took me far from home. Hell, I didn't even want leave home to go to college - my parents practically dragged me there, and I came home to visit every weekend for the first couple of months.
And yet, slowly, almost imperceptibly, the hypnotic siren song of life lured me farther and farther away. I started staying at school on the weekends, then going places with new friends. Each little adventure left me with a lingering taste; a desire for more. The rest, as they say, is history. Today I'm equally likely to be meeting with CFO of a high tech startup, dancing in a club in South Beach or exploring a Greek isle on a moped.
But going so far from the safety of home hasn't made it any less important. If anything, home is more important now than ever. It's my anchor: home base.
And I'm willing to bet you have one too. Maybe it's not a little house in Apex, NC. Maybe it's a cozy little bungalow in Atlanta, or a tiny, dark apartment on the Lower East Side that has this little window with the greatest view of the playground. Maybe you don't even live there...maybe it's a funky little coffee shop just around the corner, where you can nestle into a fuzzy chair with a big cup of latte and read a book.
I may never have been there, but I know what it's like, and I know why you like it. It's your place to retreat to; your shelter from work stress, from customers, from politicians and lawyers. A haven from stormy relationships, drama queens, critics, and scandal. A place where you can step back from the world, catch your breath, and re-build your perspective.
So maybe your owls are pigeons, your squirrels are stray cats, and maybe it's a train that wakes you in the middle of the night. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that you have a place that will take you in, close the door, and whisper "Welcome home".
See that job title? Check it out: "Spy". How cool is that? I know, you're probably wondering what it means to be a spy for an international organization like Intrepid Media, huh? Well I'd love to tell you, but I can't. It's all part of the spy game, baby.
ABOUT ROGER STRIFFLER
more about roger striffler
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
3.26.01 @ 1:29a
Wow, Roger! You made me want to go back to NC to live..even if it was just for a moment. After growing up in Wilson, NC...then moving to Raleigh, then Charlotte, then Atlanta, ...and then Sydney, of all places...you made me want to start all over and do it again. With a new perspective. Thank you....great column!
(yeah...I know that this kind of comment belongs under 'critique this column'...but I wanted everyone to know how I felt. Home is Home...and Roger captured that for me.)
3.26.01 @ 11:14a
I don't know Jack, I seem to remember you writing something about a kookaburra perched just outside your sunny veranda, and a red tile roof bathed in silver moonlight. You don't want to come back, but I'm thrilled that I even made you think about it.
(Besides, you can't come back until I've come over to visit you!)
3.26.01 @ 1:49p
jack - turn your italics off (this is the second time he's done this) from now on. I can put some code in there to make sure they're off, but it tends to screw up Netscape.
3.26.01 @ 8:15p
Sorry, boss. :(
3.27.01 @ 10:02a
The cool thing is that we can now affect other people's comments.
3.27.01 @ 10:33a
You mean with razor sharp wit and sarcasm, right?
4.4.07 @ 10:33a
Why Roger doesn't write more is anyone's guess.
4.4.07 @ 11:09a
How funny that you should comment on this today...I didn't sleep well last night, and lay awake listening to two owls calling to each other in the dark.
Why no writing? Combination of hectic life, recent marriage, and lack of anything cool and "bite size" to write about.