I literally jumped in surprise when, crossing the Bybee Bridge, I felt a pair of beetle black eyes staring at me and what I had taken for a plastic bag snagged in the branches turned out to be a Barred Owl perched hardly five feet away and right at eye level. While we gazed at each other I tried to make sure I radiated nothing but wonder so as not to incite the talons that feature so grimly in Mary Oliver’s meditations on death. For my part I only somewhat held its attention, distracted as it was by a campfire below the bridge, the stream of cars speeding up McLoughlin and whatever rodents scurried in the dark anxiously trying to avoid its sight. Still, it gave me more attention than the owls I’ve found sitting like fluffy little monarchs in Oaks Bottom during the daytime. I feel sheepish to anthropomorphize, but humans have been doing so for a long time, so who am I to break tradition? It looked a little tickled, even giddy to be noticed. I wondered if it perched there often, wanting as much as anybody to be seen.
Conor Eifler is a writer and theater-maker based in Portland, Oregon. His plays have been produced by Actors Theatre of Louisville Apprentice/Intern Company, Ars Nova’s ANT Fest, Samuel French OOB New Play Festival, Portland Center Stage’s JAW Playwright Festival and elsewhere. His TYA play You Cannot Undo This Action won the 2021 Angus Bowmer Prize for Drama as part of the Oregon Book Awards.