September 28th, 2005


A Bit of Hypochondria

There was an owl tonight, making loud hoots that filled the dark woods. It was somewhere north of the house, but I couldn't pinpoint its location. The sound echoed, and the owl might have moved a few times, though I never heard its wings. For all I know, it may have caught and devoured a dozen small creatures while I stood watching the stars and sniffing the fresh air. The moonless landscape is no doubt a veritable slaughterhouse, and a groaning board of beastly feasts. I'm sure that silent, unseen bats pluck countless insects from the sky, and small creatures are constantly munching creatures smaller still in the undergrowth. As I listened to the hooting, I found myself hoping that the tiny mites who eat dead skin cells and such from around my eyelashes would never develop a taste for corneal tissue.

I don't know why these thoughts occurred to me on so serene a night. Perhaps the advance of the year has awakened some atavistic urge, and some primitive part of my brain is attempting to tell me it is time to gorge, as a hedge against oncoming winter. When it rises at last, the shrunken crescent moon has the appearance of a slice of melon eaten to the rind. Any day now, I will hear the clatter of metal ladders in the apple orchard as the harvest begins. Squirrels already scamper through the diminished afternoons, cheeks bulging with acorns. It is the season when things are devoured or stored away, or fall into decay. I scratch at the spot between the first and second joints of my left index finger. A mosquito fetched a meal from there while I was outside. I can easily picture a hungry West Nile Virus under the itchy welt, now devouring my blood cells, one by one.