Sunday, 19 October 2014

The five stages of grief are remarkably similar to the five stages of being attacked by a Eurasian Eagle Owl

The five stages of grief are remarkably similar to the five stages of being attacked by a Eurasian Eagle Owl

By Mark Sadler

Last Saturday, after leaving a friend's house in the early hours of the morning, I made a decision that would profoundly alter the direction of my life. Instead of taking my usual route home, following Larchers Lane to where it joins with Willmarck Boulevard, I opted for a bold diagonal course across a chain of neighbouring farmers' fields. This off-road detour would, I calculated, shave 20 minutes from my journey time. If judged correctly, I would emerge further along Willmarck Boulevard, just before the petrol station and the big roundabout.

It turns out that there is a good reason why more residents of Larchers Lane do not take this short cut: Unbeknown to me, as I entered the second of three large fields, I unwittingly strayed into the hunting territory of a Eurasian Eagle Owl. It was this giant bird of prey that descended like a fallen angel from out of the cloudy, starless night sky, its orange eyes burning with infernal hatred as it set about me in a blur of talons and feathers.

In the fraught melee that ensued, I had ample time to reflect upon how the emotional states that one transitions through when attacked by an owl of this particular species, are the mirror image of those described by the K├╝bler-Ross model charting the five stages of grief:

When the owl first struck I was overwhelmed by strong feelings of DENIAL. During the opening seconds of the assault I found it hard to admit that I was even being attacked! Instead I rationalised that the wind must have caught the hem of my coat and blown it over head.

Even after I had finally come to terms with the stark truth - that I was being savaged by some kind of large, predatory bird with excellent night vision - I was unable to accept that my assailant was a Eurasian Eagle Owl. I refused to believe the living evidence before my eyes, that was hell-bent on raking deep bloody furrows into my face. Instead I conjectured that the south of England lay outside the normal range for an animal that is more commonly sighted on continental Europe, and that my attacker must therefore be another large bird – a nocturnal seagull, perhaps.

Hot on the heels of denial came ANGER. Over the course of four decades I have donated small sums of money, amounting in total to 10 pounds and 43 pence, to The Owl Enhancement Trust – a charity that is run by owls for owls. Donations from the public are used to promote issues affecting owls and to provide owl-friendly habitats, for example by constructing more derelict barns to encourage the spread of barn owls across the UK.

Many is the time that I have spoken favourably of both eagles and owls in public. Furthermore I have always openly challenged those who attempt to spread untruths or incite violence against these birds of prey.

Yet now, in spite of my philanthropy, I was being attacked like a common vole, under the cover of darkness, by an eagle/owl hybrid!

As my anger subsided and it occurred that I might very well come off second best in the struggle that was unfolding, I resorted to BARGAINING. I wrenched from the twisted pocket of my jeans a mixed offering composed of small change, faded milk-chocolate M&Ms, and used tissues. I cast these down onto the bare earth in the hope that they would provide adequate compensation for whatever transgression I had committed.

When this desperate attempt at mediation proved futile I lost heart and slipped into a DEPRESSION, where I recalled the lyrics of a song by Morrissey titled 'Charles Hawtrey is Snatched from the Set of Carry On Doctor by a Giant Tawny Owl'.

In this despondent state of mind, where the embrace of death felt preferable to the reality of having my flesh gouged by the sharpened talons of an enraged owl, I almost gave up. It would have surely been the end had ACCEPTANCE not come riding out of my existential darkness to save me. It was in this moment of clarity that I thought:

'I am being attacked by a Eurasian Eagle Owl. I am not okay with this, but it is happening.'

As I spoke these words to myself something changed: Our physical bodies seemed to fall away and the owl and I were unified as a single entity; one that was composed entirely of light and energy. I knew the personal history of my strigiforme assailant and the history all owls. Likewise my attacker knew my past and the past of all humans. Together we ascended through the earth's atmosphere, out into the solar system and beyond into the vast and unfathomable cosmos, where we now dwell, immortal and omnipotent, presiding over the secrets of the universe like a god.

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