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My Corner of the Canyon: Roadkilling Me Softly
October 3, 2013 - By Kathie Gibboney
The light was gently fading in the Topanga sky. Driving back up Old Canyon, the road was mine, as was the radio, having just dropped off Miranda in the Valley. I was in no rush. The trees were full of late summer leaves; autumn was on the way but still just a whisper in the breeze, just a promise in a pinecone.
My body knew what to do long before my mind. My foot slammed on the brake, my head jerked forward, seatbelt holding me in place, my eyes looked into the rearview mirror, half expecting collision. Fortunately, all was clear and quiet although my heart was pounding.
Did you see that? I asked, though Im not sure whom I was asking. I knew I should drive. I couldnt just sit there in the middle of the road, but I kept staring straight ahead where it had just been.
I could still see it. So suddenly and otherworldly: a deer, a beautiful deer in full flight had just leaped across the road, then vanished into the foliage, within an inch of my car, which had the good grace to stop. Oh thank God I did not injure the animal.
Whatever does one do if one collides with a full-grown deer, causing grievous harm to something so profoundly beautiful? How do you aid or comfort an injured wild creature thats in shock, bleeding or dying? What a helpless, sad scenario! Not to mention the mercenary consideration of damage to the car for the animal carries no insurance.
So all I can say is, Thank you, Powers that Be, for letting him fly safely across the road; thank you for giving me just that spare second in which to stop; thank-you for the God-sent timing that seemed well beyond my humble control and could only be divine. I drive on pondering the mysteries of the universe.
One morning soon after, while delivering Miranda to school, we suddenly see walking down the Calabasas neighborhood sidewalk two deer. They are right there, as if two curious visitors from another city taking a stroll and seeing the sights or perhaps two long-legged young teens on their way to school. Miranda and I marvel at the incredible sight of them walking along and wonder if they will cross at the crosswalk with the other kids.
Fortunately, they turn up a hillside away from the busy street. Be safe, I wish.
There is a story of the Guru, Yogananda, and his school in India. The students had adopted a young deer that was adored by all, especially the Guru.
When the deer became ill, the Guru used his spiritual healing powers to cure the animal and all seemed well until the deer appeared to the Master in a dream. The deer spoke, You must release me.
You are holding me back. It is time for me to move on and incarnate on a higher level. The Guru freed the deer who, indeed, died.
I shared the story with my Sunday School class as a lesson in releasing attachment, which is, of course, hard for humans. I was afraid the girls might find the story sad but they understood the message and took it even further.
They mused that the animal had incarnated as a human and that any of us might now be the deer. Looking at their graceful faces it was easy to imagine it so. You might even be the deer, one young lady bravely spoke.
A few nights later I woke about three in the morning. I hate that. All those middle-of-the-night thoughts rushing around my brain: Remember to pay that bill. What should I give Cindy for her birthday? Wouldnt it be nice to live in Santa Cruz. When does the septic need to be pumped? How many more days until Christmas? What happened to my career?
Should I get up and have a piece of cheesecake? Then I hear a noise outside.
I wonder if its the pesky gopher or raccoons. I go to the window and see a large shape on our patio, which in the dark, I think is a coyote. Then I realize its a deer. And over there, in the yard is another. Oh, Im so excited; I slip on some shoes and go outside where I stand still, looking at two beautiful faces, one with antlers, who are looking intently back at me. The three of us stand there under the Topanga stars. Then silently, they turn and the first one jumps, as if flying right over our white fence. The other deer does the same and they take off down the middle of the empty, darkened street, hoofs clattering on pavement, and disappear like magical beings, into the night.
I could only stand in stupid, aging human form and envy them their grace.
I watch and wait nights for their return but they dont come back. The Beleaguered Husband says I dreamt them.
As the season changes, there on the next to last day of summer, Im taking my daughter and friend to an evening school event.
Oh dear, I say somewhat shocked. Lying on the side of the road, across from the Calabasas school is a deer. It is dead and beautiful and terrible in its death. Oh deer, I say this time.
What is it mother?
A deer, I answer. Its best you didnt see it.
Of course, on the way back I must pass it again, and later in the night when I go to pick the girls up, I try not to look, not to see those powerful yet delicate legs now stilled, the noble head, the sleek fur out of its element, inanimate, near a traffic light on the cold pavement. I wonder if it was my deer. I try not to think of someone who was not able to stop in time.
Im so sorry, dear deer.
Over the next few days the deer remains, its fur taking on a dull muddy color. Im sure by now someone has called Animal Control.
I hope they come soon. But it is not soon enoughfor one morning the carcass has been hollowed. I dont know if it was some intrepid mountain man with a taste for venison, or coyotes, and then mercifully the next day it is gone.
But I still see it and know I must release the deer and, God knows, what all elseLet go of ego and new shoes, of squalor, wasted time and too much wine, envy and the mirror, a desire for even more Christmas decorations, fear of spiders, insufficient funds and growing oldrelease the deer.
So I ask the deer to come to me in my dream, to tell me its now free, to inspire me or bestow some special blessing. I imagine the creature appearing in a beautiful glowing light. This is what I get. I cant even say it. Who shows up in my dream is a hideous hillbilly, missing tooth guy, whos on television (and Im not? Envy again) named Turtleman. Hes the kind of guy who jumps into a pond of manure and seems to like it. Whatever does it mean? Must I now release the turtle too? Or watch for turtles crossing?
Or, God help me, embrace the terrible Turtleman? All I know is, ..Slow and steady wins the race.