In the headlights

She leapt out in front of my moving car as if distracted, unaware of my headlights or the path she’d wandered into. She just appeared out of nowhere and in doing so, knocked me clean out of the noise of my day. 

I hit the brakes hard, felt the anti-locks kick in, and managed to control the car, stopping about a foot shy of hitting her. She wasn’t the least bit alarmed. She stood in the middle of the road, unaffected. 

My heart was pounding. I could feel the pulse in my ears. My breath was quick. I was aware of my good fortune and hers. Just one second sooner and this would have been a very different scene. 

She was transfixed as if the world spinning around her was a mystery. Graceful and calm. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, for both of us. 

A literal deer in the headlights, she looked straight into their glare, mesmerized.

I don’t know if this really happened or if I just imagined it, but for a moment, I felt like she looked right at me, only through me. It was hauntingly beautiful. 

I know this happened in a mere flash, but seeing her there, oblivious to the danger she’d just put us both in, I felt a sense of awe and, believe it or not, gratitude. 

She meant me no harm. She was just another creature trying to get through her day. Who knows what thoughts or species were chasing her. 

Our survival instincts may be different, but on this day, it seems we both survived. 

As fast as I had that thought, she was gone, into the dark expanse of a farm field. Vanished. Like it never happened. 

I wondered what that would feel like to leap and bound over fences, gallop across hills, stomp through the bush, unrestricted, always on the move, always on alert, yet running free. Yes, I can romanticize anything. It’s a good life skill to have, really.

As I drove on, slowly and with trepidation, I coasted down a hill, my heart still pounding, but my mind aware that something special had just happened. 

I know deer jump out in front of cars all the time. I know these accidents don’t usually go well for the deer, and sometimes, not the driver. It’s horrible. It’s costly. It can be deadly, too. 

This situation wasn’t unique for all those reasons. But for me, that chance encounter was no coincidence. It was a sign. A good omen. A wake-up call. A “snap out of it” moment. 

Just minutes before I had been driving in the early darkness, mind racing with a to-do list that didn’t get done that day, instead of marveling at all the magic that I did accomplish. 

I was punishing myself with thoughts that served no purpose beyond feeling like I’d failed people – all people whom, I assure you, were going to survive just fine whether I’d met my targets or not. 

No matter what the day brought, I was heading home. What is better than home? Nothing. 

I’ll take my deer encounter as a sign to snap out of the noise and get grounded in the truth that I am one person doing the best I can.

Dear me, that’s enough.

WriteOut of Her Mind