Tomorrow–or rather, today–I am leaving for Greece. I’m excited, if only because it’s a new place that I can’t fathom in the slightest. I haven’t even googled Syros, the island we’re staying at, because I like that I have no image of it in my mind… Sometimes, I think travel might have been more thrilling before planes and the onset of so much technology. Sure, it took forever to get to a place. I think two days is a long time to travel to Greece, but it’s nothing compared to months on a boat, eh? Still, all that anticipation, all that mystery… must have been true adventure.
For the most part, I spent today gathering my things together. Nothing too exciting; the Fourth of July passed somewhat unnoticed in my world this year. I felt a little sad about that, but it was nice talking to you on the phone, and knowing you too were enjoying a quiet evening in your room… Sometimes, perhaps, we need that uneventfulness. I felt I did, at least.
Not that my day was entirely uneventful, though. You know, as I mentioned, the coffee stain and the deer (the latter being the more unnerving experience, of course).
I’d driven downtown around 8 pm for a run, because its around that time that the air cools and the humidity eases. It was very calm; not many people were about, but there were folks eating dinner outside of restaurants, and here and there I’d see another person strolling on the sidewalk. As it got darker, the fireflies came out, and driving back up Maher, it seemed the whole street was a-glow with these flashes of yellow, and everything was still and empty except for those sporadic flashes. That feeling of stillness clung to me as I drove home, slowly, a Shins album playing–so when that doe sprang from the woods, its head smashing against the front, right side of my car, I almost thought I imagined it. The only thing that felt real was the sound, this eerie thump. I think I saw its tan head snap, an antler crack and fling…but it happened so quickly, I likely did imagine that part. And then my car kept going. My headlights moved on, illuminating the gray asphalt and the evergreen trees in front of me, and that was that. I was alone; there was no one else on the road; no one had seen it happen. When I pulled into my driveway, I inspected the front of my car. Some plastic pieces around the front right tire and light were missing, but that was it–that was the only evidence that it had happened, besides the deer of course, which, in all likelihood, I’d killed. I thought about stopping after I hit it to see if it was indeed dead, but I thought I better not, because it was dark and no one was around and if my car failed to start again for some reason, I’d be completely stranded. So I kept going. But that doe probably didn’t die easily, with a blow to the head like that. It probably stumbled, fell to the side of the road, head smashed, suffered.
It’s the most rattling and peculiar feeling, the feeling of taking another creature’s life. This feeling was worse because I had taken its–the doe’s–life for nothing. I killed chickens last summer, but their deaths had a clear purpose, worth, dignity–and this was so utterly the opposite. That said, to be fair to myself, I couldn’t have avoided her with any driving finesse. She didn’t actually jump in front of me. If she had, I could have braked; instead, she met directly with the side of my car as she leaped from the trees, making it impossible for me to change my course… And yet, it was still my fault entirely, because I was doing the unnatural thing. Driving my car. She was bounding forth, doing what she was supposed to do, what deers do, you know? I was the one not playing my the rules.
And all of it made me think of this poem called “Traveling Through the Dark,” by William Stafford.
Traveling through the dark I found a deerdead on the edge of the Wilson River road.It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the carand stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;she had stiffened already, almost cold.I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,alive, still, never to be born.Beside that mountain road I hesitated.The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;under the hood purred the steady engine.I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,then pushed her over the edge into the river.