in a recent attempt to develop a substantial team lead in imaginary-zombie-related competitive step counting i headed north on the promenade along east river park this sunday and realized pretty quickly that i wanted to take a long, long walk. in fact, i wanted to walk all the way up to central park and see barry, the goddamn adorable barred owl who's been appearing around the park and charming people off and on since october. i follow a not-insubstantial number of bird enthusiasts on twitter, so barry pops up in my feed several times a week, at which point i pump my fist at my laptop and chant BA-RRY! BA-RRY!, frightening the cats. as far as i can remember i've never seen an owl in the wild, you see; we didn't really have owls in our especially-paved part of orange county when i was growing up (unless you count david bowie in labyrinth, and, okay, that's fair). to me barry is even more exciting than the unnamed(?) snowy owl folks have been seeing in the park since last month, even though she's the first snowy spotted there in 130 years — i saw a snowy up close and at length when we tended her at my bird hospital a couple of years ago.

anyway, i walked and walked (and walked and walked — per social media barry was up around the loch, which is at the north end of the park around 103rd street) and tried to leave my phone alone so that it wouldn't die before i had a chance to take shitty faraway pictures. i approached a few hikers on a random icy path in the park: have you seen...the barred owl? "there are a bunch of people back thataway who seem excited, i don't know." i passed a partial sparrow, pink and chunky. i passed a whole northern cardinal, ten feet away and puffed up like a durian. then i totally saw barry, and it was just like when joe spotted david bowie in the mezzanine at a pixies show, though barry wasn't wearing a hoodie and sneakers. respectable jareth cosplay, though.

manhattan bird alert (hush) tweeted yesterday that barry is likely a female, given the pitch of her hoots. after hearing that i dove into Bird Internet like a fox after a mouse beneath the snow and spent the next hour listening to barred owl recordings; i learned to my delight that ornithologists transliterate their calls as "who cooks for you? who cooks for you-all?" and that barred owls are also called hoot owls because their hoots are characteristic in the same way that concord grapes are definitively grape. matty and steve were reasonably tolerant of my attempts to who-cooks-for-YOU? like barry at them all night, which does sound much better than BA-RRY! BA-RRY!, i would imagine.


since the beginning of the year i've been doing team-based escape-from-zombies fitness-tracker challenges with my college roommate jen and her various social and professional circles; it's been a delightful way to fold check-ins with a dear friend into my daily life and has also turned me into an aaron sorkin character. removing old green nail polish? can totally happen while i'm racewalking around the apartment. emailing a dermatologist for a story follow-up? can totally happen while i'm racewalking around the apartment. worrying about what's going on in the bartlet biden administration? fooled you, i stopped doing that at the end of january. okay, i mostly stopped doing that at the end of january.

it turns out that motivation is a much bigger problem for me when the world is just mostly on fire instead of completely on fire. i've been so frayed and overcommitted for most of the pandemic that i didn't think about the fact that i was doing too much; now that, i don't know, we're watching two hours of news a night instead of three and i'm quilting at the coffee table instead of writing letters to georgia voters as we watch, i've started to shy away from the work that wasn't a problem a few months ago, or wasn't a problem i could avoid. that's where the racewalking out of the zombies' clutches comes in: you're not really procrastinating if you're getting steps en route to returning a library book (for which you won't even get late-fined until june) to help friends bust through a roadblock of undead wolves. the work is still happening, but i've started asking for the leeway that social media assures me i've deserved all this time. i think i ruined my sneakers on a walk up to midtown that got us to the next safe house just as some bar television played the national anthem at the beginning of the super bowl and it was totally worth it (also they had started to smell, a bit).