Sunday evening; along the concrete riverbed of I-85, a current of vehicles slows to a standstill. An overcast sky has become a mirror of its terrestrial sister, complimenting each other in mute accord. The drone of the previous eight hours of driving have blurred my vision into a monochromatic canvas. If not for the occasional road sign, one would have difficulty separating this place from any other.
On the left shoulder, at the foot of a jersey wall, there is a shape. This particular form has feathers. Perhaps it’s a hawk; as roadside hunters they are often struck by cars. But the outline doesn’t quite fit. As we inch closer at the caterpillar pace of traffic, I realize that you are a Great Horned Owl. An occasional breeze gently lifts your feathers, but all else about you is still. Death, in its static proximity, evokes a peculiar curiosity. Why are your feet covered in feathers, cousin? Where were you headed in your last moment?
Lying upon such a bleak expanse of road, you seem in purgatory. How will you return to the earth from which you came? You have been denied the dignity of a warrior’s death. And yet, with your eyes closed, you seem not the least bit concerned. I want to carry you across this lifeless corridor, at least to the few trees left in the distance. I know that it’s impossible, but desire does not often yield to reason. Cars are moving again, flowing southward with increasing speed. The brief window of reflection begins to close. Sixty miles until I reach home; in my heart, I am a thousand miles away.