Suicide Owls

I’m not usually rabid about symmetry. In fact, for a long time I habitually wore two different earrings, just to be asymmetrical. But I like how this photo came out.

Straight road to the mountains and the sky beyond.

The other day I heard a loud crack, the unmistakable sound of a bird hitting one of our windows. I knew immediately the bird had killed itself. I didn’t have to get up from my desk to know. Birds hit our windows sometimes, because they reflect all that sky, but usually they’re just scooting around the house on birdie business and bounce off. In over a year of living here, this is only the second bird to die on our windows. It’s only when they’re not paying attention, when they’re hunting or being hunted, that they screw up.

It’s with dread that I go look to see what bird it had been. Sometimes I’d like to pretend I don’t know, avoid looking altogether. I can’t give the bird its life back and yet I feel I have to at least witness it.

Surprising to me, this time it was a raptor. I thought a little kestrel, but David ID’d it as a pygmy owl. Turns out they sometimes hunt birds during bright daylight. Which also explains why he was easily fooled by our windows. Daylight is still not the strong suit for owls.

Really a neat little guy. I wish I’d seen him alive.

Cycle of life and all that.

And then David found out yesterday that one of his lifelong friends had “died suddenly at his mother’s house,” according to the obituary. He hadn’t seen the friend in quite a while, but it’s a shock. The guy was only 56.

These things make us sad, in diffuse ways. There’s nothing to be done. It’s part of the natural order and yet, it’s also natural to mourn their passing.

Death is the bookend to birth. A dreadful symmetry that draws boundaries around our mortal lives. We might try to buck that, play little games with ourselves and pretend that death is far away or that we’ll be different. But we know it’ll chase us down sooner or later.

We never know when we might be shooting for the sky and snap our necks on plate glass instead.

Because we can’t know, we focus on life. Death moves among us, but we live. In some ways, we owe it to the dead to enjoy our lives. Relish every breath, every joy and sorrow that reminds us that we’re part of the world.

And when we get down the road, there is the sky, and everything beyond.

12 Replies to “Suicide Owls”

  1. Sorry about the owl and David's friend. Funny how something (death) that is so constant a part of our lives can and does shock us nevertheless. We think around it in so many ways, but still, it's difficult to truly grasp.

  2. I think maybe that's a kind of self-protection, Linda, that we can't quite grasp it. We're not meant to be thinking about it all the time…

  3. Aw, the poor owl!

    The soundtrack to the warmer months around here is also filled with little feathered bodies bouncing off windows. Once upon a time we used to keep newspaper over the glass in the lesser-used rooms, just to discourage kamikaze birds…until they blossomed in number and became annoying pests filling the awnings and assailing the attic.

    Interesting how we're inclined to protect the smaller and the weaker until their behavior ruffles our feathers.

  4. I suppose it's little comfort that the owl went quickly and probably still doesn't know what happened. You could even have a ghost owl.

  5. p.s. I'm sorry about David's friend, too. "Died suddenly" used to be a euphemism for suicide, and from the headline, I assume that's what happened here, too. Doubly sorry for that as it's even harder to understand than the seeming randomness of flying full speed into a window.

  6. Good point, KAK, feeling bad for the birdies is a luxury. Small sorrows.

    I thought the same thing, Keena – I'm sure the owl was dead before it knew it hit the window. Love the idea of a ghost pygmy owl, hooting and haunting the dusk. And yes, we're reading that into the euphemism, too. We don't know for sure, but he did suffer emotional pain for many years. No quick and painless death there.

  7. Poor little owl. 🙁

    These days the only dead birds that show up at my house are the ones the cats bring in (or whatever is left of them.)

    When I was in 5th grade I remember watching tv and hearing this constant thud in the garage. Then I went out to check I realized we had a cardinal that had flown into the window. Only he kept doing it. He'd flutter up and slam as hard as he could into the glass, fall down and then do it again.

    No idea what his deal was (unless he was seeing his reflection in the glass? Pretty dirty garage window, tho.) There's probably a metaphor in here somewhere.

  8. Lovely post dear – brought tears to my eyes. The way we are about death always reminds me of those National Geographic movies where the zebra and antelope graze peacefully within sight of the not-currently-hunting lions. If we focused in on all of the hazards that might take us out at any moment, we'd never get out of bed in the morning. And then probably be killed by a random object falling through the roof. Every moment is precious

  9. Hmm, Allison, fighting only ourselves? We think we're battling all these foes, but it's only our own ideas in the end. Reminds me of a certain someone.

    Yes, Kelly – well said!

    Thank you, Kerry. I love your analogy. Nothing wrong with savoring the grass while we can!

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