Monday, July 14, 2008

Oh Deer!

I seem to be leading a charmed life. I didn’t always think so; in fact, I had figured it was anything but. Sometimes it was simply perception - measuring my insides against your outsides and losing every time. And then there were times when my circumstances were just plain bad - there was no need for a relative yardstick. Sometimes bad is bad enough all by itself. Regardless, if that’s what it took to get to where I am today, right here, right now, it’s a good deal. In direct contrast to a life where nothing ever seemed to go right, when luck (or perceived luck) was always bad, today I get lucky (or blessed, or however you wish to define it) when I don’t even think I need it or want it.

Some examples? Ok, but a first warning: I have no idea what conclusions can or should be drawn from the following. Your interpretation, like mine, is entirely personal. What I am laying out are some experiences and, likely, a thinly veiled idea of what I think it might mean. But I really don’t know. Perhaps by the time I finish this piece I’ll have some better insight - experience tells me this is a distinct possibility. But if I don’t get started, I’ll never finish…

Once upon a time, there was a deer.

Driving on country and mountain roads presents a host of hazards not usually present in city or urban settings. These risks, however, are not manifested frequently. For example, hitting a deer while driving on a mountain road is a very real possibility, but not a probability. It doesn’t happen very often and only appears to when compared to city driving where it virtually never happens. The point is that although a serious and sometimes deadly hazard, the odds of hitting a deer with one’s car are remote. They are so long that some of the stories have become the stuff of legend. The reality is that it is never a pleasant encounter for the driver or the deer.

The animal is usually killed or mortally wounded and the vehicle usually suffers serious damage and sometimes there are no survivors - deer or otherwise. Tragic, rare, but true. My encounter between my 1999 Ford F-250 and a good-sized buck several years ago on Interstate 80 between Reno, Nev. and Truckee, Calif. was a head-on collision that left my truck and it’s occupants unscathed. It was, unfortunately, a very bad night for the deer. Perhaps it was Darwin’s theory in action - thus one deer with its mutant truck-charging gene will not be breeding more like it. But I digress.

I did not consider our survival lucky; I did not think I was “saved” by some kind of “Higher Power.” In fact, in the moments prior to the collision, I was cursing my luck after yet another unsuccessful night in the Reno casinos. Moments after the collision, I was again experiencing some particularly bad luck in that there was a hysterical female passenger sitting to my immediate right. I was trying to assure her that there was no reason to go back and “check on the deer,” that it was not "alright,” and, furthermore, that it never felt a thing. How lucky I would have been if she would just shut up, I thought.

A similar encounter with a logging truck almost eight years ago produced some tangible “bad luck” in my life. I will not re-hash it here other than to provide this link. It goes into some detailed history about that period in my life and includes links to two news stories about my near-death experience. Suffice it to say it was a turning point and one that ultimately changed my life in some very profound ways. It was, essentially, the close of one life and the start of another.

Since then much has changed, most of all my perception. No longer looking to the outside, my peace comes from within. It didn’t happen overnight and as one can imagine, a long-term hospitalization does not easily produce gratitude. But looking back, it has created exactly that. So was I lucky (or…)? You tell me. Since processing the revelations gained from that experience (a process that took several years), I have been exceeding lucky in most of my endeavors. Not necessarily lucky in the supernatural sense, but as Samuel Goldwin once said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” kind of way. A change in perception combined with action has made me a lucky man.

Ok, so what about those things that appear to be pure chance. They are often referred to as coincidences, or miracles, or just plain luck. Things like that chance encounter with someone special; being in just the right place at just the right time; what about that close call - that brush with death that left me alive and (eventually) well? Could it be attributable to experience or is there something more at work? Consider this:

Some say there is someone for everyone - that each and every one of us has a “soul-mate.” Others have been deeply and profoundly in love many times, but never found the compatibility to form any kind of lasting relationship. I don’t know about all that, but I do have a series of experiences, (or perhaps more accurately, mistakes) to draw upon. All were typified by an initial attraction followed by an untested yet unflappable assurance that “she” will be the one. Commitments ranging from cohabitation to marriage (once) usually ensued… and the pin was pulled. It was always just a matter of time before... BOOM.

Following my hospitalization in 2000 I endured a very long period of rehabilitation - finding “her” was not a priority. Slowly, very slowly, my hat found its way back into the ring. Recently, I started seeing someone who I was initially attracted to. However, early on it was clear to me that there was no “spark.” If there is such a thing as a “soul-mate,” she was definitely not the one. Yet I entered into this very shallow and largely superficial relationship not once but twice, causing a considerable amount of pain in the process. It was not my intent, but the short-term relationship I bailed out of was more than that to her. But in the soul-mate game, it is always a two-way street.

After an awkward and unpleasant break-up, I allowed that I would not be looking for another “her” for some time to come. I rationalized that there were some things left for me to accomplish, things that could best be handled as a single entity… I decided that I liked my life better without any baggage. One of my female friends was experiencing the aftermath of her own recent break-up and we started hanging out together. We have been pretty close ever since we first met many moons ago, but always as friends. This time, however, things started to happen. It has been an extremely slow burn ever since. And… it is like nothing I have ever experienced before. For the record and not that it’s anybody’s business, it is just as innocent as it sounds. There will be no further updates.

Which brings us back to the deer.

As rare as it is for a four-wheeled vehicle to strike a deer, it is even more so for two-wheeled vehicles. As you can imagine, the deer stands a much better chance of surviving while the downside risk for the motorcycle rider is much greater. At 50 to 60 miles per hour, on a dark and winding mountain rode, there is little a motorcyclist can do when a deer decides to jump onto the road. Last Saturday night, at about the 6,000-foot level and just after dusk, a deer came out of nowhere from the hillside on my right and directly into my path. Its head struck my handlebars on the brake lever while its body wrapped around my crash bars and struck the right foot and knee my passenger (that “slow-burn her” I just told you about). My friend riding his bike behind me said my rear tire road over the hindquarters of the deer, but it happened so fast I have no recollection of anything past the initial impact.

The bike did not go down. Neither of us was seriously hurt and my Harley only sustained very, very slight damage. I don’t know how well the deer faired, but it could be just fine as well. It left some blood and hair on my bike, but my friend riding behind me (who had to take evasive action himself) saw it hobble off the road. It was a big doe; a full-grown, probably 150 pound deer. We were doing about 55 to 60 miles per hour - that deer should have taken us down - and out. But it didn’t. I would love to take credit, but I can’t. I just reacted - and we rode right through it. We pulled over as soon as we could to recompose ourselves.

I guess I’m just lucky.

Road King - 1, Deer - 0


kenju said...

I'd say you're right!

Snaggle Tooth said...

You were unlucky to hit a deer on a bike against long odds,
-but you were lucky not to have been thrown down or have your friend badly injured, and lucky to have litle bike damage-

Sounds scary to me! Stuff like that makes my heart pound like a bass drum! N yes, I've had a close call recently, myself (not written on ESR)

You don't know if maybe a higher power had something to do with your survival- but I have been praying for you in my "petition list" daily for a very long time now- (I think so)