Where is my home?

Harpy Hal sat alone on the dusty floor of his empty tree trunk, looking out the window hole he had made with his beak and claws over many years.

Outside he saw many things – birds singing (Whitney was calling to her new interest Danny, eager to flirt), chipmunks jumping (Das and Jonah had recently become close friends), snails marching (oh how patient they were). Passing clouds took turns obscuring some of the light, leaving a small beam to illuminate each scene for a moment.

And yet despite the movement outside, the life buzzing around him, the joy and the passing light, he felt stuck. Unable to move beyond the home he made in this oak tree. He remembers the day he found it – soaring above, the glittering leaves called to him like a gentle neighbor. That day felt far away now.

Rotating his head to the left, he saw the portrait of his mother the groundhog had made for him (at half price, he still didn’t understand why). How he missed her. Once over a slow sunset dinner of mice and, she told him that the greatest affliction of this life was to feel like you don’t belong. “My whole life,” she said, “I felt like an outcast.” Why weren’t there other birds who could look in every direction? (This made her feel like a freak.) Why must she prey on mammals instead of insects? (This made her feel like a murderer.) Why did she enjoy the night? (She missed out on daytime activities and friendships.) “And only now as I reach the end, do I see what a waste it was to feel like there was something wrong with me.” She gave her head a full 360 degree shake, and with a soft smile moved closer to her son on the cold night.

How he longed for her wisdom and comfort. Since she passed, he’d felt lost. They did so much together and now, who was his companion? With whom did he doubt, dine, dip and dive; stay up into the early hours of the morning? Who made each moment feel like a journey instead of a slog? Hunting felt like a chore that even stomach pangs didn’t encourage, and he’d lost considerable strength and weight. He often slept through both day and night, which no one noticed because they never saw him anyways. Meeting other owls was hard (where does one go?), and he often managed to put his foot in his mouth.

“Excuse me, miss, I think you dropped a feather.”

“Oh, thank you, how kind.”

“Ah, wait, looking at it now I think that was mine. Can I... have it back?”

His whole home, really, was filled with memories of her. The first nest she built, that he was born in. Skeletons they kept because they were especially beautiful. The wall covered with tiny marks where they’d pretended to be woodpeckers and, failing miserably, nursed their sore beaks for days. He couldn’t bear it – he felt like the world somehow went on, found meaning and joy and love, but his had stopped and wouldn’t turn again, it just couldn’t turn again.

The day was almost over, and the world began to fade. Hal moved from the floor to the door. Danny had called to Whitney and they were by the pond (now definitely flirting), Das and Jonah started to make a fort which they would continue tomorrow (as young chipmunks, they were due home), and the snails had moved a few more inches (and it was enough). It was strange; he felt a glimmer of joy for these creatures, and yet so remote and therefore jealous of their experiences that the light quickly extinguished, leaving him in a smoky gloom.

What did his mother say about death? Ah yes, “Your body falls to the ground, and your spirit rises to the sky.”

He lifted his head, pushed with his feet and wings so that he was airborne. He flew high, high into the air. He kept going, past where he knew it was safe, past where he knew owls or birds or creatures belonged, thinking, “but maybe this is where I belong,” and as he kept climbing he gasped for air, breathing its thinness, breathing its waning life, yes this must be it, I’m coming for you mama until a great whiteness wrapped its wings around him, carrying him the rest of the way, until he didn’t need to be.