Monday, January 5, 2015

Un-Natural Selection

I live on a mountain ridge.  The road up to my house is a winding, one lane, cliff-hugging bit of tarmac, with three hairpin curves before the top.  Some folks who share this wilderness like to think they're Formula One drivers, much to the peril of other humans and wildlife.

About three weeks ago, in my daily travels up and down the mountain, I noticed a young deer, still with a smattering of fawn markings, that always seemed to be alone. Often this little creature would be standing in the road as I came around one of the blind turns, terrified to see my car, indecisive about which way to run before bounding down the slope into the underbrush.  Several times I waited for a glimpse of the mother, but no, and eventually it became obvious the deerling was an orphan.

I worried about her.  Without guidance how would she know what to eat?  Where to sleep out of danger?  Understand the road was a kill zone?  But, after nearly a month, she was managing on her own and I began to feel hopeful that she'd make it.

This morning, after walking the boys and going to the vet for an issue Ozzy's having with his heart and breathing, I was feeling particularly sad and teary because my wee boy is going down that slippery slope and I'm not ready.  At all.  Never will be.  Ever.

So, I'm cruising up the ridge, alert for the usual deer herd, and the little orphan, though my mind is replaying what the vet and I have talked about earlier as Ozzy's options are dwindling.  I come around the last hairpin turn and instantly see it.

The little deer is crumbled beside the road, lying dead in the ditch.  I stopped the car and just stared in disbelief.  She wasn't there when I went down the mountain an hour or so before, so between one hour and the next, someone--racing up or down the winding road--killed her.

I understand that Nature is cruel. Intellectually I completely grasp the concept of natural selection, survival of the fittest, Nat Geo and life vs death.  But Man is not natural.  And it broke my heart. This poor little orphan had such a bad start, with no mother, no herd, but still she kept herself alive against the odds.  And then some careless jerk wipes her out in an instant.

I made it home, gave the boys their lunch, and was just making myself a cup of tea when the whole morning hit me. And yeah, I cried like a baby, not just for the senseless death of the little deer, but Ozzy's declining health was in the mix, too.

I don't find a real sobfest in the least bit cathartic. I know there are women who feel much better after a good wail. I am not one of them.  I usually end up with a stuffy nose, a headache, swollen eyes and an urge to sleep for a year.  All I could do today was blow my nose, wash my face and make a stronger cup of tea.

Because really, there wasn't anything else I could do...


  1. Humans are a part of nature. It is terrifying hubris, which so many have distanced themselves from it and try to deny the fact. Probably part of the reason I so mistrust most of my species.

    1. Maybe I wasn't clear...death by man hurling down a road in a machine is NOT a natural way to go.