The Deadliest Words

The Owl lives in a Cypress tree near the Creek. It seems that he has lived there forever. Since all things have a beginning and an end, this cannot be so; but it does seem that way. It feels like he has lived there forever.

The Cypress tree is large, it has roots that go straight into the water. It is planted in such a way that one would never expect it to give way to anything. Why the Owl chose this particular tree has always remained a mystery to all in the Woods. There are many other trees which are more shapely. There are other trees that flower so beautifully in the Spring. There is an Oak tree in the middle of the Woods that is much larger and more majestic. But, by his own volition, and for whatever reason, the Owl chose the Cypress tree for his home.

The Owl is predominantly a solitary fellow. He has friends, but he spends most of his time to himself. Sometimes he goes to visit the Beaver, or the Otter, whom he likes for their playfulness. Sometimes the Deer visit the Owl. The Deer always enjoy a sense of safety under the branches of the Cypress tree. Together they spend hours, sitting together in the lazy afternoons, the Owl on one of the lower branches and the Deer napping underneath. The Owl has always fancied himself a family Bird, but it has never come to be.

Not all the creatures in the Woods are comfortable in the presence of the Owl. The Raccoon is one of these. The Raccoon feels restless when in the presence of the Owl. I always thought that the true nature of the Raccoon could not be concealed from the intense gaze of the Owl, and that this was enough to make the Raccoon feel uncomfortable. Surely, the Raccoon is guilty of an abundance of trickery and foolishness, any little bit of which would make one’s conscience turbulent. But, Raccoons will be Raccoons, and so it is. The Owl knows that it is best to not interfere with the natural inclination of the other Creatures. He has learned the hard way that it is best to accept them all just as they are.

Which may be why there is an occasional knock on the trunk of the Owl’s tree. The Fox visits one clear, October morning. She, too, is not always comfortable in the presence of the Owl. However, today she is in dire need of consolation and advice, and her discomfort is secondary to her troubles.

It seems that the Fox has had a row with the Raccoon. At some time in the past, the Fox raided the den of the Raccoon, and took her store of Winter Food. The Raccoon lost one of her babies to starvation during the long, cold Winter, and ever since has blamed the Fox. The Fox complains about how her den has been vandalized, and her Winter Store is diminishing. The Owl asks if the Fox knows who is doing it. The Fox admits that there were Raccoon prints outside the door. The Owl listens carefully to the concern in the Fox’s voice.

Finally, the Fox finishes her account. The Owl pauses, and after a moment of reflection offers this advice to the Fox: “You must go to the Raccoon, and you must admit your misdeed. You must apologize.” This concept has never entered the mind of the Fox. “How can I do such a thing?” asks the Fox. The Owl listens to this question, then offers that, in essence, it will be no more difficult than the conversation that they are having at that moment. The Owl offers encouragement to the Fox, and sends her on her way.

Several days hence, there is a knock at the trunk of the Cypress tree. Again, it is the Fox. Her den has once more been raided, and Winter is close at hand. She is gravely concerned. The Owl asks “Have you spoken with the Raccoon?” The Fox admits that she hasn’t, and freely admits to her fear. The Owl repeats his words, and offers that the Fox must make the effort if she is to be rid of this trauma. She goes away, but is not comforted.

On the very next day, the Fox knocks hysterically. The Owl is patient, for he has an uncanny way of understanding these things. He goes down to where the Fox is pacing, and he sits next to a large Toadstool. The Fox frantically offers that the Raccoon has come in the night, and was carrying away not the Winter Store of food, but one of the Fox’s babies. The Fox was able to wrestle the baby from the Raccoon, but in the darkness, she saw the glare of several other pairs of eyes, all from other Raccoons. The Owl listens until the Fox is finished talking. Then, the Owl repeats his simple question once again: “Have you spoken with the Raccoon?” The Fox replies:

“I know what I need to do, and I’m not going to do it.”

The Owl says that it’s the only way. He says that there’s nothing more that he can do. The Fox leaves, slowly, with much anguish.

Within a week, the Buzzards circle the Fox’s den, for there is no life within.

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