January, 1964. Somewhere in Colorado *I think?!?*
It is snowing. And late. We’ve just finally gotten off the road. We should have been off the road long before but Oh Dear Diary! we just had to keep going until we found someplace to stay overnight, it was way too cold to sleep in the car tonight, even if we kind of huddled together (like we have sort of done on a regular basis all through the fall). Our entire trip has been sort of charmed to this point, when I stop to think about it, given that we had planned out absolutely nothing and we were all kind of (at least at the outset) pernickety about things like where to stay, what to eat, blah blah. Tonight is no exception. Tonight was charmed, to be sure. A night of wonder, all the way around. Here’s what happened.
Tonight we found ourselves in the middle of well, nowhere, kind of suddenly, and it was beginning to snow like crazy. It’s so weird how that can just happen. I mean one minute we knew where we were and the next we didn’t. Scary. Come to think of it, I was scared, really scared, for the first time on this trip. So I volunteered to drive, because when I get scared, the best thing for me to do is something, rather than nothing. So I drove. And drove. And drove. Pine trees, mountains, and narrow roads. Pine trees, mountains and narrow roads. I know I said that twice. Maybe now you can get a better picture. As I drove along those dark narrow roads, I felt like I was hiking out of the Grand Canyon, which I have done once, dear Diary. At every steep incline, you think you see the top. You’ve made it! But … No. You get there, and there’s another incline, just exactly like the one you just climbed, but when you look behind you, you can’t see it anymore, it’s like it never happened. (It’s kind of like writing, that way. I once read that deciding to be a writer is to essentially commit to a life of misery, because writers are only ever happy for a moment: When they’re not writing, they’re miserable, because, well, they’re not writing, and when they’re writing they’re miserable because they can’t get it exactly how they want it, but then when they get it how they want it they are happy. For a moment. Shortly thereafter writer’s remorse sets in, and they want to destroy it. Sigh. I have been a writer since I could hold a pen, and although I know I am not all that old yet, what I have to say about that theory is that although there is some truth there, it is flawed at the outset: No one chooses to be a writer. It is something that chooses you. Anyway. I am getting sidetracked. More misery! Ha.)
Back to tonight, out there on the road. Snowing. Late. Dark. Middle of nowhere. I drove and drove, until the car fell silent. I imagined that I heard the snow falling outside just for some company. After a while, though, I found that I was glad that everyone else in the car was finally asleep. Mercifully asleep! I thought, surprising myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends but to be alone with my thoughts for a little while tonight was a relief like none I have ever felt. I’m not sure how I went from being afraid to be alone to hungering for it, but it happened on this drive, on this night. It was so quiet. The snow had thrown her blanket over the world, softening the edges of everything. It was like I had driven right into a dream.
Then it happened. I thought I was going slow enough for these snow-covered curvy roads, but I wasn’t. I came around a corner and found that I was completely out of control, the car started to fishtail, the wheel was like a spin toy in my hands, it was like I forgot how to drive altogether. I jabbed at the brakes again and again trying to remember what I learned in Driver’s Ed about what not to do in this situation, my mind was racing, I struggled with the wheel and then I guess I just held my breath and god-forgive-me … closed my eyes. I thought we were going to go off the road. But then … suddenly … absolute stillness. The sound of snow falling. I opened my eyes slowly, thinking maybe we had all died, but there we were, in the middle of this narrow road in the middle of god-knows-where, in a cathedral of pine trees taller than you can imagine. I looked at my friends: still sleeping, seemingly alive and well. Phew. I looked at the road ahead. What the ?! Out in front of us there in the headlights I saw a baby deer, mere inches from the bumper. How had we stopped only inches from her?!? I hadn’t even seen her. It was like the car stopped itself!
Note From LV: I remember.
I sat there for a long while, just staring at her. She was so beautiful. Such soulful eyes! Looking right past the headlights, through the windshield and into my surprised face. I wondered why she was still standing there, and began to look around for her mother. I thought I saw her in the trees to my left. Yes. She moved. There she was, just waiting, waiting for her baby. As she moved a little closer to the road, the baby deer turned her head, saw her mother, and ran to meet her. I sighed loudly, and sank back into my seat. I watched them sprint off through the woods, the way deer do, their white tails lost in the falling snow. I realized then that the car had somehow stalled in the frenzy (had it turned itself off? I wondered), and went to turn the key, thinking I had better get out of the middle of the road before someone came around the corner the other way. Not that I really thought anyone would be out on that middle-of-nowhere-road in this snow, but still.
As I sat up and leaned forward to turn the key, something caught my eye to the left. I felt like someone was watching me. I turned slowly, first checking to see that our doors were locked (they were). To my amazement, it was the mama deer! She had come back ? Now standing right on the road, and coming closer. I watched in amazement as she walked at a steady pace toward my window. In a strange moment of desire to hear what she had to say (?!?) I put my window down, yes I did. The snow fell in through the open window and onto my face, slowly, gently; it felt like a caress. Mama Deer stepped closer still, until I could feel her breath on my face. She lowered her head until her nose almost touched mine. We stared at each other, I saw her baby standing in the woods behind her, now safely off the road. Was she here to … thank me? I thought suddenly. And then the most amazing thing happened. And I just knew. She kept lowering her head, right past mine, all the way to the driver’s door. She rested her nose on the door and shut her eyes, and I felt something pass between them, I swear to you. I felt it. I felt her say thank you to my car, I thought I felt the car say something back, and then the deer turned and sprinted back into the woods, her baby looking back at us once before following her. I put my head down on the steering wheel and started to cry. I’m not sure why, but I did. It was a long time before I turned the key. I know that I probably imagined the whole thing, I haven’t even told the others. But yet … There’s really no logical explanation for why my car stopped for the baby deer, or why the mother deer came over to the car like that, there really isn’t. Is it possible that something transpired between AN ANIMAL and A CAR?!? Is it possible that my Lincoln is somehow connected to … I don’t know … Mother Earth?? Sigh. No one can answer my questions, I just have to take them to bed. Good night, Dear Diary.
Note from LV: Yes.