I have a song stuck in my head. But I can't tell you what it is. It's Monty Python, which should give you a clue--go see the recording of their live performance at Hollywood Bowl. It's the one at the beginning, where it turns out they're not wearing pants. Go see it, if you haven't yet, as I think you'll laugh your head off, but pretend you didn't hear about it from me. It's a love song, rather sweet in its robust frankness, but, shall we say, rather graphic in its physicality.
The reason this thing is stuck in my head is that Chris and I watched another Monty Python DVD tonight. We seem to be on some kind of kick. We'd watched the thing, and were making our way through the extra features, when I heard something familiar outside--a regular chirping that did not belong to a frog. I jumped up and ran to the door--from the other room, Monty Python swelled in volume; "...AND TELL ME THAT YOU LOVE ME!"
The chirping stopped, I returned to the sofa. Presently, a lull in the comedy permitted the chirping or hooting to again enter my ear, so I ran to the door and "I'M A LUMBERJACK, AND I'M OK!"
hoo! hoo! hoo! hoo!
ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE
hoo! hoo! hoo!
ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE!
hoo! hoo! hoo! hoo! hoo! hoo! hoo!
This went on for some time, the miraculous wildness implied by the chirping--a high, short, regular whistle--bracketed nicely by the manic insanity of brilliantly funny Brits, before I finally got a clear listen at the chirps. It was--did you guess it already? A saw whet owl. I don't know anything else that sounds like that, and that is exactly what it sounded like. I like owls; their calls are simple enough for my untrained ear to remember, and saw whets are one of those I know. I spent a season helping to band them, and I heard the audio lure often enough that I can mimic the call pretty well. Hearing that call from a real owl, as I have a few times in Vermont and New Hampshire, always feels miraculous to me, some little oo! of delight, like when some wild thing, or a kitten, decides to trust you for a moment. They do migrate through here--we're about three miles from the banding station as the crow (or owl) flies--but I've never heard one calling in the yard before. I didn't think they liked it here. But here one is.
What is he saying? Maybe he's just saying the same thing to other owls that I can hear from him; owl! owl! owl! I am here! I am here! I am here! Maybe there's more nuance to it than that. I assume that the call has something to do with sex and territory, that even if he is just saying owl!owl!owl! over and over again, he means to be heard and hopes to be found by another owl.
If so, then his repetition is not very different from the Monty Python song repeating itself in my head, a song intended to be funny in its startling crassness, but there's really nothing offensive about it, only that things like that generally aren't said in public, much less by a barbershop group standing elegant and manly in nice shirts and long aprons. The song is funny because of the juxteposition of a kind of shameless animal generosity with the civilized, cultured conttext. The Pythons are like the owl twice, actually; once in the frank and simple desire of the lyrics, and once in to the extent to which the Pythons were communicating on that stage, as opposed to playing characters who were communicating, what they were saying was probably more or less their own name. I am here! I am here! I am here! Those who had business with them, who wished to interact with them for whatever reason (for example, those who wished to give them money to be hilarious), would hear the song and know more or less what they were about. How much of communication is really saying one's own name, over and over, so those who have business with us know who we are and what we're about.
Chris and I, too, owe our relationship to a song. A year or so before I met him, I heard the Jimmy Buffet song, "Off the Coast of Carolina," for the first time, and I thought, yes--that's the kind of relationship I want. Grown-up, sane, dedicated.
and the walls that won't come down,
we can decorate or climb
or find some way to get around
cause I'm still on your side.
Like, some hormone-addled twenty-something might sing about being one with, inseparable from the beloved, some some reverse form of amoebic vegetative reproduction, but people always have walls, privacies, limits, hang-ups. Some walls won't come down. Ok, fine, let's decorate them.
I didn't tell Chris about any of this until we got to know each other pretty well, but maybe some part of me that's wiser then the rest knew what I was looking for, and knew when I found it. Maybe in thinking of the song, I somehow broadcast it into the ether, as that owl broadcasts his song, my statement about who I am and what I'm about. Maybe Chris heard it, recognized it, and flew in.
Our anniversary is in a few days. Turns out, I like being married. I never expected to get married when I was younger, and here I am, migrating through my world with a partner, decorating walls, and still on the same side. From the bottom of my heart, as Jimmy Buffet says.
If you were anywhere nearby, I'd offer you a slice of our anniversary cake; chocolate with coconut buttercream icing.