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Cave Creek Canyon This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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      The van rattled down the dusty road. The excited chatter of teenagers was broken only by the sound of the squeaking axles. Giant sandstone walls pockmarked with caves stared down at our vans. Junipers gave way at the canyon floor to Arizona sycamores, Apache pines, and mountain yucca. These plants fought for sunlight with the army of oaks clambering for the sky, creating a massive screen of foliage almost too thick for us to see the opposite wall that was just 40 feet away. Over the rumbling tires, some complained of how pointless they thought our mission was but I watched the forest, waiting. The future, and what lay there, was my focus, as I tried to concentrate on what I had never seen before.

Bright red lights signaled that our point van had found something. As I leaped out, the order to be silent was almost completely drowned by the deafening silence of the empty creek bed meandering under the gnarled trees. The gravel crunched beneath my shoes, sounding like gunshots in the humid air as I kneeled with the others. Not far away, behind a veil of oak leaves, a fledgling owl returned my impolite stare. Its sibling hid nearby, too shy for our telephoto lenses. My vision, interrupted only by the camera’s shutter, was distracted by a gasp.

On a twisted oak, I spotted an adult owl close enough to see the beetle writhing it its mouth. The silence was barely disturbed as this powerful predator visited its young. Amazingly, it returned to its picturesque perch and posed. It was the adult Mexican spotted owl, scanning the jungle with its black eyes. The shadows melted into the soft brown plumage, broken by creamy white spots. The owl rotated its head toward our group while its mighty wings rested gently by its sides. Eight talons wrapped around the bark underneath. I stared into the owl’s eyes, black portals into its world. Countless seasons of wilderness survival stared back.

An engine roared to life. As amazing as an owl is, that which you haven’t seen becomes more important. As we set off to find an elegant trogon, a tropical bird of this cool, mountain canyon, I stared back at the owl. I didn’t want to leave, but I was still intrigued to see what I never had. As wheels began to grind the gravel, a curious face watched us. I watched the shadows swallow the owl, hiding it from our world again. The owl disappeared as it had appeared - in silence.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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