I was discharged from the hospital on a cold Sunday night. Until I went in for surgery the Winter had been mild, but during my stay it snowed several inches. The result of this was somewhat disorienting, like when you go see an early movie, and when you come out it's dark outside. The landscape had changed while I lay in bed full of morphine.
I was glad to be going home, but I was nervous as well. I worried about the noise the kids would make, and the inadvertent pain they'd likely inflict when climbing on me. Most of all, I felt wounded, "injuried" as my daughter called it. But it was more than that, I felt heavy and oppressed.
Prior to the operation, I had similar feelings. Maybe I was feeling sorry for myself. Maybe I was worried about things going wrong. But I think overall I was feeling a sense of loss.
This introspective pity party is nothing I'm proud to admit, but it's the way I felt as we slowly rounded an icy curve on Canyon Road, and I noticed a deer standing in the middle of the street.
"Deer" I said, pointing.
Kaerlig slowed the van just in time as another deer bolted out in front of us, momentarily froze, then leaped back to the right shoulder. The air hung icily in the headlight beams, the deer stood still, and we realized there were a whole group of deer on the left hand side of the road. We stared, and they stared back. Then the one in the middle of the road walked across to the group. The one that had just jumped in front of us hesitated, then ran after the others. This deer miscalculated the speed of an SUV that had been approaching from the other direction, or maybe didn't notice its approach. Either way there was a sickening crunch as the deer's hindquarters intersected with the passenger side headlight of the SUV. The poor creature was knocked to the shoulder of the road like a bowling pin, and landed silently on the curb of recently plowed snow. The animal lay still, The SUV drove away without stopping.
For a moment I projected myself into that cold, dying creature. A moment before it had been alive, wide-eyed and uncertain. Now broken and wounded. (Even if I had had a hunting knife I doubt I could have dispatched it to the other side the way my father-in-law once did in a similar situation. I wanted to put it out of its misery, but I didn't have the strength.) I felt the ice of the snow and the confused mess of bones, muscles and tendons trying to make sense of themselves. At once I felt fear and death and longing.
The kids were confused. Thankfully they hadn't seen it. They didn't understand what had happened. I closed my eyes as we continued homeward.