Whacked by an Owl

I got home from writers’ group a little after nine last night. The downstairs outside light was on, but both the deck and the apartment were dark. Getting out of the car, I couldn’t see Travvy but I knew he had his nose between the balusters because that’s where it always is when I get home.

An owl was hooting very close by. No surprise there either: a couple of days ago my neighbor called my attention to the owl family in residence, mama, papa, and by her count three owlets.

I walked up the stairs, paused to give Travvy two treats from my pocket (no wonder he’s always glad to see me), and unlatched the baby gate.


Something hit me pretty hard on the back of the head. Huh? This didn’t make sense. I removed the gate, stepped through, and whack! This time it hit me in the face. My fingers came away from my face wet, and once I got the inside lights on I saw that yes indeed it was blood, from a little cut under my left eye.

I’m here to tell you that “she didn’t know what hit her” is not just a figure of speech. I didn’t know what it was, where it had come from, or where it had gone.

My best guess, however, was that I’d been whacked by an owl.

What does a girl do who thinks she’s just been whacked by an owl? Posts it on Facebook, of course. Within an hour I’d heard enough from my friends to confirm my suspicions, and to correct my surmise that one of the babies had done it. More likely it was one of the parents protecting one of the babies. “Owls play no games,” posted one friend. “Especially regarding territorial matters (in that, offspring most of all). Great eyesight/optical light gathering. Silent flyers, too.”

Me and my shiner

Me and my shiner

Later he elaborated: “To drive off a creature from a given area such as a nest site (rather than dispatch it as prey — living humans are far too large for any size owl to consider a viable dietary staple), a series of ‘lighter’ but increasingly deliberate demonstrations of physical persuasion (which entail less risk and expenditure of energy) certainly fit the m.o. of your avian assault.

“Not that it actually matters, but for the above reasons I am doubtful that a less than fully-grown owl was responsible for the strikes you experienced.”

I’m persuaded. This wasn’t a youngster playing games. This was a grown-up who knew exactly what he or she was doing.

This morning I woke up looking like the Tareyton smoker in the old ads who’d rather fight than switch. I used to think those shiners looked totally fake. Not anymore.

Little Owl nestled among the cookbooks

Little Owl nestled among the cookbooks

The odd thing is that many years ago I was part of a shamanic drumming circle. My spirit guide turned out to be not a horse or a dog but a saw-whet owl. One of my sister journeyers painted an owl on a rock and gave it to me. It looked very like my spirit guide and has been keeping an eye on me ever since.

Is there a message in here? Certainly, but it’ll probably take a while to reveal itself. By the way, a chapter in the book I just finished proofreading was titled “Whacked Upside the Head.”

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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2 Responses to Whacked by an Owl

  1. David Corriveau says:

    Love the Tareyton smoker reference. Talkin’ ’bout my generation…


  2. Sharon Stewart says:

    Glad the owl didn’t hurt your eye! Close!


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