I’m not exactly sure when the owl moved in, only that it was some time over summer. It wasn’t like I was sleeping that much anyway, but it turns out there’s a quantifiable difference between lying in bed unable to sleep and hating life IN SILENCE, and lying in bed unable to sleep and hating life WITH AN OWL HOOTING OUTSIDE. These are things you don’t take into consideration when you’re weighing the pros and cons of a bedroom that gets morning sun: “Is it urban owlery-adjacent?”
Add something else to the list.
After one night of not sleeping, I can be pleasant enough. After two nights, the veneer’s wearing thin. After a solid week of being kept awake by a high-pitched “Hoo-hoo-hoo-HOOOO! HOOOO! HOOOO!” and I’m ready to tear someone’s head off. The owl had progressively been getting closer to my window; last night I had actually been able to see it perched on the roof, stock-still like a carved stone idol, or possibly a total asshole.
So I did what any frustrated, exhausted nerd would do: I turned to the internet. Armed with my location (not many owl species in the Chicago area, it turns out) and intimate knowledge of hoots, I became Alle Malice: Ornithologist. Within ten minutes I’d established that it was a Great Horned Owl, but because of it’s squeaky voice it was likely a juvenile male. I know: A teenage boy making a metric fucktonne of noise? At NIGHT? You’re shocked!
So now I had name and a face for the night terror, but the bloom was quickly off the research rose. Because these owls can live thirteen years OR LONGER in the wild. Oh, and they are very protective of their territory. Which meant that I had better stock up on voles and field mice because I had a new neighbour, until I was forty at the very least.
Over the next month, I tried everything. I installed a white noise app on my phone to drown out the hooting, but the (real) owl was louder that the (fake) box fan. I began partially suffocating myself at night with pillows over my head, but all that happened was I got really sweaty and probably sustained some brain damage. Finally, I thought “What are owls scared of? Maybe a meaner bird!” and went to Youtube to find some scary birds yelling their heads off. Two hours and several dozen videos of hawks, falcons and eagles screaming bird curses, my nerves were shot. The owl, however, was unimpressed and unmoved.
At this point I was ready to cede the field. I started having weird sleep-deprived fantasies about a human-sized owl sleeping in my bed and wearing my clothes. I figured I’d probably have to move.
And then one day, he left.
Relief! Sweet, blessed relief! I lapsed into a coma for what felt like a week straight. But then something weird happened. One night, I actually caught myself wondering about the health and safety of the owl. “I hope he’s okay”? I HOPE HE’S OKAY? Seriously? That bird was a jerk and I could care less about him. Right?
Nope, I was worried.
It’s not like this was an annoying car alarm. This was a living thing, and a young living thing at that. I wondered if my rageful, tired thoughts had somehow pushed him away. In my head he’d been eaten. No, shot and THEN eaten. No, he’d been hit by a car and was dying slowly by the side of the road. It was awful. Only one thing was certain:
I had come down with the avian version of Stockholm Syndrome.
About three weeks ago, I wasn’t having a very good time. I was tired, sore from physical therapy and mentally exhausted from work. I was just curling up in bed to watch Fringe and try not to think about life, when I heard something outside my window. It was louder and lower than before, but I couldn’t mistake it. The owl was back. Not only was he back, but hooting a little further away was another owl. A lady owl, maybe? They were calling to each other. And I was…relieved. Excited, even.
My owl comes back about once a week. He sits in a spot about three feet from my window and talks to me. I talk back a little, feeling like the bird version of a crazy cat lady. What else would you call an idiot who stands at the window in her pyjamas and hoots at an owl? I like it, though. Sometimes he clicks his beak in an affectionate way and I feel proud, like I’ve passed some kind of test. Then he flies away, and I’m amazed at how quickly a bird that size melts into the darkness.
Of course, it helps that he’s a busy adult owl now and is only around for an hour at a time. Stockholm Syndrome starts to wear off without sleep. I mean, I’ve heard.
Have a great weekend, guys. I miss my regular blog schedule!