Thursday, September 3, 2015

I hit a young deer

I hit a young deer two days ago.  Because I have no photographs of this story, I am adding three images of making a gift of tobacco and breath to a tree. The lesson from the young deer feels as big as this tree.

I am driving home from a wedding--telling myself stories about how profound and beautiful it all was--and not paying attention.  A young deer jumps from the roadside ditch and there I am--not paying attention.  A solid thud and the deer is lying on the wet pavement in spasms of jerking movement.  Surely it is dying.

Because this is Cortes Island and traffic is rare after the last ferry in the early still-bright evening, I stop my car in the middle of the road and move its young body into my lane away from anyone else coming.  I sit on the pavement with him, holding his head in my palms so he will not die with his face against the asphalt, but he does not die.

We just sit there, this small animal with little swelling bumps where horns would have some day grown--and an old lady sad but not crying, not trying to do anything but be there.  Several people drive by, each one asking what happened, what needs helping.  I say we are fine.  We don't need anything.  By this time the young deer is watching me.  I am thinking death is coming soon, and because I make drums I am wondering if I will be able to get the deer's body into the trunk of my car so at least my skill can serve his spirit with another form.

A young man passes by on a bike, gets off and joins us.  He manages to carry the deer to the long wet grass by the side of the road so I can move my car in the darkening gloom.  The young man, the deer and I stay together beside the road for what seems like quite a while--the humans crouched in the wet, the deer lying with legs outstretched and spasms of shivers running along its muscles. There is nothing obviously broken, certainly some scrapes and cuts but no blood and no bones showing. But I think the shock has been too much and now the deer's life is surely passing away in the subsiding tremors.

Someone stops and asks if we want a knife.  I say to the young man,"Which would you rather choose? To die here in the cool wet grass in the fading light, or have your throat cut?"  We decide none of us wants a knife.  We become aware our petting the deer like a pet cat or dog is probably not being understood in the same way by this wild creature.  First assaulted by an unimaginable thing, then moved twice and now held in place with alien smells and sounds and touch.  The young man makes a hollow beside a hydro pole on the other side of the ditch and carries the now actively struggling young deer to it.  The deer is lying in the bed with legs tucked under its belly and holding its head up.

Later at home I read about what I possibly should have done when I hit a deer.  Yet in this one small instance I think what we all did was correct. The humans did not panic or try to fix anything so the deer could receive death, or life, in its own way.  The next morning while driving slowly by I could not resist looking into the hollow place by the pole.  I saw that it was empty.