Honestly, I don't even know where to begin, so I'll just start by explaining that this past weekend I headed to Philadelphia with my parents, where we met up with my brother and nearly everybody on my mom's side of the family for this big party dubbed "The Celebration of Life." We celebrated birthdays and wedding anniversaries and just being alive, hence the name. Very sadly J wasn't able to come with us as he is nearing the end of this great journey called grad school, and wanted to stay home and get some work done. Instead, though - instead, he was attacked by an owl and had to spend five hours in an emergency room where he, by the way, had to lower his pants so he could receive a rabies shot in each butt cheek, among other things that went on.
See, that's the thing. I knew this birding phenomenon would end up causing some kind of crazy injury someday. It wasn't enough that J wanted to explore abandoned wooded areas at dawn, or make handcrafted wooden birdhouses on the living room rug - he had to get so close that finally, almost inevitably, one of these so-called fascinating creatures swooped down and grabbed at his head with its sharp talons.
When J called me Friday night and said, "The craziest thing just happened to me," I immediately got kind of nervous because, it seems, something crazy happens to him every time I leave town, but when he told me that "an owl just flew into" his head, well, I mean, I hadn't quite imagined something like that.
He had been walking down this trail somewhat near our house - he'd seen a barred owl on this particular trail the night before and because, you know, he loves them, he decided to go looking for it again. And Friday night, there it was, sitting in the trees above him. So he told me it stared at him, and he stared at it, and it hooted, as owls are apt to do and then, as he was walking away he felt something hit him - hard - in the back of his head, so he yelled, and then ran for it and when he stopped a little way down the trail he put his hand up to his head and he was bleeding.
Ok. If this had happened to me I probably would have died right there - if not from natural causes like a massive heart attack I would have found the nearest ravine (few and far between in Chapel Hill, unfortunately) and thrown myself in upon the rocks, because when you are in the woods - night or day - let me tell you, you are in the scariest place imaginable and I don't want to hear it from those of you who didn't think "The Blair Witch Project" was scary. That movie was scary as they come and you totally know it.
Anyway, my point is that if I'd been in the woods and some unidentified creature had hit me in the back of my head and I was bleeding I would have died, or at least run for cover and I definitely would have tried to find the nearest policeman, or anybody who had a gun for that matter, but J simply told me that he "knew it was the owl" and went on his way. Owls had, in fact, attacked people - runners in particular - on that very trail before. Later that night, some friends of ours suggested to him that he better get the cut checked out because owls are wild creatures, after all, and he might get an infection. That's why he called a nurse at UNC the next day who recommended he come into the ER, and that's where J spent roughly five hours of his Saturday, a Saturday he meant to spend working, waiting to see a doctor who told him that he was going to have to have rabies shots, because he couldn't definitively say that what hit him in the head was, indeed, the owl, since he never saw it coming. There was a minor chance that what hit him could have been a bat, for instance. And bats, they carry rabies, and when you get rabies, you die, so he'd better have those shots just in case.
Shots in his arms and quads and the afore-mentioned buttocks and - it hurts me to even type this - in the cuts on his head.
After J had been released from the ER and I'd talked to him and ensured he was alright, I told the story to a few of my aunts and cousins and it turns out owl attack stories spread like wildfire because I cannot tell you how many people came up to me during the Celebration of Life and said something along the lines of, "So...I heard your husband was attacked by an owl." And then I had to explain to them that, yeah, he did, but that's not why he's not here, just so you know - and then they'd ask me something like, "Well, how did that happen?" and the easiest answer for me to give was the simplest - and really, the most truthful - I just told them, "My husband, he loves to look at birds," and then I'd explain that this particular bird, I suppose - if attacking somebody's head with its talons is a clear enough sign - didn't much feel like being looked at.