Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Late one night, or perhaps it already very early one morning, my husband and I chased the xenon glow of our headlights into a yawning maw of black.
The wind was in my hair, stars blazing above when suddenly something swooped up from the ditch on the glowing edge of my headlights. The Mothman? A Phantom? The instant before my shiny fiber-glass bumper made impact I saw the animal in its entirety: a Great Horned Owl.
The sound of Owl impact shattered my sensitivities and I instantly began to cry, at the same time, I am certain its death caused a tear in the universal order and I was at that moment cursed. Morgan jumped out of the car to inspect the animal and our front end, I sat and moaned and sobbed.
“Is it dead?” I whimpered
“Do you think it suffered?”
“Well, I don’t think it enjoyed it.”
Morgan to his credit, did not laugh nor raise an eyebrow but merely hugged me until my storm of despair subsided. He then drove the rest of the way home trying to distract me from the Owl parts flying over the hood and past our windows. We parked the car outside that night.
Over the summer, the horror of that evening began to fade and I felt that I may one day be able to set-out bird feeders and bird watch without feeling like a murderer. I would find a way to make it right.
Later that summer, I was riding my bike one sunny morning, well entrenched in my mental zone, my legs spinning quickly, when suddenly – WHAM! Something hit the back of my helmet. I scrambled to stop the bike and stop whatever it was from making off with my noggin. I flailed my arms, swiveled my head side to side and caught a glimpse of wing. A Hawk! It was trying to lift off, my helmet securely in its talons, my neck stretching like under-cooked spaghetti. Finally the bird released its clawed grip on my head and I was free but thoroughly shaken: my helmet was trashed. I pedaled swiftly home with a nervous eye on the sky.
My friends later said that the Hawk likely thought the design on top of my helmet was a small bird, but I know, I know: it was avenging its Owl brother.
A few years later, I was sure my torrid bird encounters had passed. They flocked to my feeders, chirped from my trees and flaunted their plume for my pleasure. Certainly I had been forgiven? I could not have been more wrong.
Driving through Custer State Park one beautiful September evening, sun going down on the planes, backlighting the stolid forms of the Buffalo as they grazed, I felt an immense peace, the kind that only comes from quiet moments communing with nature, enjoying its undefinable splendor. Then, it happened again! A white flash of wing, a swooping movement and impact!
The Dove careened off the supporting pillar of our windshield and was gone in seconds. Was it tired of carrying the incredible burden as a symbol of peace? Had it sacrificed itself to make a statement to me? I was shaken; surely this was a bad omen. I hoped that the bird’s reasons where its own and had nothing at all to do with me, but I feared this was not the case. Moments later a crack spread its fingers across our windshield in a crooked, arthritic pattern. The birds weren’t done with me yet.
Weeks later, once again on my bike, I was attacked once more. The Pigeon was furious in its onslaught, throwing itself bodily against my shoulder, back and helmet. The attack was brief, but full of rage: a promise, a taste of further retribution to come. The Hitchcock theme played in my head and I contemplated never stepping foot outside again.
In Yellowstone a few weeks ago, I did it again. I ran over a family of Partridges: bearing down in our Legacy, headlights highlighting their panic, they scrambled and dodged, but were no match ultimately for my (apparent) lust for bird murder. I don’t even know how many birds sacrificed their lives for my sickness. Certainly, I am now a serial killer.
I do not know what the birds have in store for me, but I do know there is something. I know these latest atrocities will not go unanswered. I will pay for my fowl history.