|The owl family (minus one parent) shortly before they moved into the Japanese Garden.|
Instead, it is 80 degrees already when we get up at dawn, and as the sun climbs, so does the temperature. The dewpoint is 70. I am sluggish and red-faced and thirsty, and Rosie and Riley return from the walks with their tongues hanging out and their energy sapped.
I have taken a few bike rides, but they have felt more like endurance contests, even the short ones. One day I went to the Japanese Garden at the Conservatory to visit the owls who live in the row of pine trees that abuts the golf course; I had watched this family of Great-Horned Owls all spring, when they were nesting in the park along one of the biking paths, and had followed their progress as they slowly moved, over weeks and weeks, into the trees along the golf course, farther and farther down the tree line, and finally into the pines of the Japanese Garden, where I can no longer see them without paying an entrance fee. So on Tuesday, this is what I did.
It was 3 in the afternoon and the sun was beating down on my head, hot hot hot, and the place was absolutely packed. Who are all these people wandering around in the blazing sun in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon? Shouldn't they be lying in darkened rooms, with someone fanning them? I sure should have, though I doubt Rosie would be up to the task.
I joined the throngs, followed them through the Conservatory, through the misty fern room, out the side door to the fenced garden. We shuffled along in a pack, but everyone was dutifully following the path, which led in a direction I didn't want to go, so I turned around and headed for the pines. I hopped over a low bamboo fence--edging, really, not a barricade--and wandered over to the pine trees, looking up, up, up-- only to hear a voice ask sharply, "How did you get here?" I turned, and there was a docent in a straw hat, leading a small group of people who looked at me with embarrassment It was clear I was being scolded.
"I came through the Conservatory, like everyone else," I said.
"Can I help you?" she asked icily. I was baffled. "No," I said. "I'm fine."
"You can join my group if you like," she said, just as icily, and I said, "No, thanks. I'm just looking for the owls." But it was clear that I was somewhere that I wasn't supposed to be, so I headed back toward the throngs of people. At the head of my path--which I now saw was really just a spur trail--hung a sign warning that no one was to proceed without a guide. I have no idea why; there was nothing special down there--a little tea house, the pine trees, hopefully the owls--but clearly my actions had been illegal and suspicious.
I wiped the sweat from my head, pushed my damp frizzing hair out of my eyes and looked up--just in time to watch an owl fly right past me into the trees. That cheered me considerably, even moreso when I realized no one else had seen it. Who else would be looking up toward that hot pan of the sky, toward that sizzling disk of sun?
But I had seen what I had wanted to see. So I headed back through the Conservatory, out into the airless, shadeless parking lot, found my car, which had grown too hot to touch, and somehow guided it home. A darkened room awaited, and a fan, and only a tiny bit of guilt.