You know that sinking feeling you get when you suddenly realize that not only is the dead log you’re standing on very weak and unstable, but it’s also a good five or six feet off the ground? In case that’s not a feeling you’re familiar with, I will point out that there’s a reason I used the word “sinking”. For the record, I did not fall off of that particular log at that particular time. It did turn out to be strong enough to support my weight long enough for me to get up higher onto a branch of a nearby tree. I think that at that exact point, I couldn’t have fallen anyway. My skirt had been firmly stuck in a tangle of thorns, and the heel of my boot had gotten trapped on another branch.

Why, you may ask, was I climbing in trees and thorns this morning while wearing a nice skirt and high-heeled boots? The answer is simple. I was looking for an owl.

A few minutes earlier, I had been aware of a large bird flying overhead and had naturally stopped to watch it. At first, I assumed that it was a hawk or something like that, but when it landed in a tree, I could clearly see that it was an owl. “How odd,” said I to myself, for it was not night. I stared at the owl, and the owl stared at me. Then I took a picture of it. As you can see, it wasn’t a very good picture, so I went closer to try to get another. The owl flew away and was no longer visible from where I was standing. Clearly, I had no choice but to climb onto a log and venture into the unknown territory between the paths. Unfortunately, I failed to locate the owl again.

This picture was taken at great personal risk, for the branch I was holding turned out not to be attached to a tree.

It is perhaps worth noting at this point that the location of this story was not actually a real forest. It’s a fairly small wooded area on the edge of campus, and the habitat isn’t exactly the same as that of a more natural forest. I mention this partly to emphasize how weird it was to see an owl there, and partly to explain why there was a jungle gym of logs and unrooted trees for me to climb on. I’m not good at climbing trees; I need low branches and easy footholds to get off the ground at all, and this might be the highest I’ve gotten in a tree. (Or a stack of dead trees) The whole time, I was mentally pretending that I was a character in a movie, because in real life, one doesn’t often find oneself in a situation where one is climbing trees in a long skirt and knee-high boots, using the boot heels as climbing tools, and carrying a bookbag and camera the whole time.

It wasn’t until I was working my way back to the path that I fell. It was such a spectacular fall that I wish I could have somehow caught it on video. My foot caught in a vine, causing me to lose my balance, stumble sideways, and, in slow motion, descend into the network of thorns and branches below me. They were so thick that I was never actually airborne; they pulled at my skirt and hair so much that they somehow managed to flip me over before depositing me headfirst on the ground so slowly that I didn’t actually get hurt.

Then I pulled the thorns out of my clothes, took the leaves out of my hair, washed the blood and dirt off of my wrists, and went to class.