|Le Passage - Kay Sage, 1956|
When it finally happened, all was very still.
I watched the doe run from across the distant road, through the trees, bounding across the grass towards the yard where I stood with the dog on the end of the sliplead. The dog hadn’t seen her; or maybe he had, but didn’t care. He’s fairly inscrutable.
Hooves made a careless thumping sound as she leaped across the twilight field, apparently heading for the University of Phoenix building, perhaps to pursue a certification in phlebotomy. Though I was standing in a wide swathe of light, she hadn’t noticed me, hadn’t noticed the dog, and she moved erratically, like a child entertaining itself. You could practically hear her humming, off-key and unthinking.
When she finally saw us, she was only ten feet away on the other side of the iron fence. She stopped, did her very best impression of a lawn statue, as deer will do, and regarded us with a quivering black eye. I held very still and tried to look non-threatening, because I’m that kind of pathetic person. She seemed less than convinced.
I looked down. The dog glanced up at me, over at the deer, then returned to sniffing some other dog’s feces. Priorities, I suppose.
I looked back up at the deer, or rather, the deer’s white backside, as the deer had turned and fled back the way she’d come, disappearing between the soft pines across the road. That bitch.
This deer obviously has no mythic sensibilities, no romance, I grumbled to myself. I’d have liked a little animal communication moment; a glance that told me she wasn’t afraid, that she knew who I was. As someone who takes care of animals for a living, I felt I was owed at least that much. Didn’t this deer realize who I was? I have a connection, dammit! I was even a Wiccan for, like, two years, which is a really long time for someone with any semblance of sense! I have mad cat-wrangling skills! Do you not know these things, random deer who was taken by surprise by my presence?
Of course, she never came back, instead choosing to scale the hill and trek across the backyard lawns of houses in the kind of neighborhood where they don’t allow you to put up a fence. Maybe she made her way to the golf course up there, and left her adorable little deer droppings all over the twelfth hole. The one with the dog leg. Hah.
Well, that was a waste, I thought as I took the dog back inside (he’d grown bored of poop-sniffing). That could have been an omen, could have been a sign. Instead it was nothing. Ridiculous nothing.
Even nothing is something, I reasoned.
Except, by definition, it isn’t, I countered. Must everything have a deeper meaning? Can’t some things just be?
By virtue of existing and occurring, all things must mean something. Right? In that sense – nothing is indeed something. But not necessarily a very important something. Do you see?
… Brain, we’re going to have to have a heart-to-heart here very soon.
Night dropped down on me like a cheap chiffon scarf: softly, quietly, with sparkles. The deer was long gone, as were most right-thinking human beings. Crickets creaked. Cicadas hissed at volume, seemingly unaware that their last call had passed long ago. Moths bumped blindly into my face as I closed the door, turned on the alarm, and wandered to my car. The whiff of woodsmoke in the air was bizarrely out of place in this suburban flatland, but it evoked distant memories of mountains and pine forests and clear lakes that may or may not be mythical, and I was grateful for it.
Grateful for inscrutable dogs, grateful for darkness, grateful for drives home alone along winding roads.
When it finally happens, all becomes very still.
The great turning over; the great shedding; the greatest loss. One emerges changed, new, but necessarily lessened; for one can never completely reclaim what was lost. Poets and other malcontents make much of the broken heart, the broken mind, or the broken spirit; just as cutting is the closed eye, or the closed hand, or the turned shoulder.
Deer in the purple evening light. Moths like ashes in your mouth. The stink of woodfire curling along the asphalt. The burn in your belly of too many arguments, too many dirty looks, too many nights sleeping head to toe, staring at the wall. All omens, all nothing, all greater than the sum of the parts.
Open your eye, your hand, and drive the dark and winding road road; hope for the grace to see the right moment as it approaches, watch as it passes, and recognize it for what it was as it grows smaller in your rearview. An omen, a spirit, nothing at all.