Bird watching in Prospect Park is not generally a hazardous occupation. How, then, did I end up with a bruised and bloodied chin, abrasions on the palms of both hands, and second degree road burn on my right knee?
It started innocently enough, on one of the woodchip paths that splits off from the paved walkway along the Lullwater (such a gentle name!), sloping down to the water and then back up. I was scanning the water for herons (unsuccessfully) and the trees and bushes for warblers (only slightly more successfully). At the point where the trail rejoined the pavement – WHAM. It was as though someone or something had grabbed my foot. I went down hard, leading with my chin, glasses flying off my face and skittering onto the grating of a storm drain. (Mercifully, they did not fall in.)
The bucolic stillness of the Lullwater was broken by some truly vile curses.
I picked myself up and looked around. I can’t be completely sure what happened, but let’s just say that strong circumstantial evidence points to a steel reinforcing rod, left over from a construction project and sticking out from the ground at more or less the spot where I went down, as the prime suspect.
Gingerly, I brought my hand up to the throbbing ball of pain at the bottom of my face. I was relieved to find my chin still there. I was less relieved when I lowered my hand and saw that it was full of blood.
I speedwalked past the Boat House – locked tight, no park workers around – duly noting a black-crowned night heron perched on a snag in the Lullwater Cove. A strange jostling sensation with each step had me worried that my chin might be fixing to fall off (worst case) or bounce itself into some painful and disfiguring angle (slightly less-worse case).
Out on the main road, I flagged down a park truck and got a wad of paper towels and directions to the nearest park maintenance office. “They have a first aid kit there,” I was told. I’m sure they do – however, at that moment, the first aid kit was securely behind locked doors. The restroom was open, though, so I was able to clean myself up a little and inspect the damage as best I could in the prison-style, polished metal “mirror.” Not only was my chin still there, it seemed to be quite firmly attached. And despite all the blood, there was no gaping wound that might require stitches.
So I did what any normal person would do under the circumstances, considering it was a beautiful fall day, the height of songbird migration, and the middle of marathon training to boot: I jogged along the woodchip path back to Center Drive, looking for warblers and thrushes. I did have a moment of panic the first time I lifted up my binoculars to investigate something fluttering in the canopy. I couldn’t see a thing: had I broken them in the fall? Another small mercy – my binoculars were fine. It was just that the eyepieces were covered in blood.