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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Deer Crossing

I went for a drive today just to enjoy the countryside and the fact that I had taken the doors off the Jeep to let in some fresh air and sunshine. I was at that point in a leisure drive where you are one with the road, so to speak. Not literally, of course, that wouldn't be good. But there's a point in a drive where you just feel. You stop thinking and drive and you're almost a part of the car.

I was feeling that way when I came across a road sign that said "Deer Crossing". You've seen these signs right? It's a silhouette of a deer bounding over cross roads. After seeing the sign, it's all I could really think about.

Do you think the deer know they're supposed to cross at these signs? I'm guessing not because about a 1/2 mile later, there was an unfortunate carcass. I've always said a little prayer for the fallen each time I've passed by a dead deer or raccoon or porcupine or ground squirrel... or even a skunk. I just think it's a nice thing to do, I apologize and wish them peace. Everyone deserves a prayer, even skunks.

So, what's the solution?

Deer Training: This is usually the first reaction to a problem. Training. Don't get me wrong, I think it's noble to want to teach deer to cross at a designated area and maybe this would bring the number of deer fatalities down a bit. But I think there may be some logistical problems with getting deer into a classroom. First, the scheduling. I'm guessing that deer don't wear watches, so just getting them to class on time is a problem. And I don't know about you, but I've never actually seen a deer sit still long enough to learn anything. And a human teacher would probably scare the bejeezus out of a classroom full of deer anyway, like an even more twisted "Far Side" cartoon. Even if these things were doable, I'm pretty sure we'd still have deer fatalities. Maybe it's the signage. Do you suppose deer understand silhouettes of themselves? So, on to solution number two.

Equal Opportunity for Skunks!: Personally, I think this is a great idea. I mean deer aren't the only animals that deserve special treatment, right? Does an animal have to be beautiful or extraordinary to be worthy of our respect or at least our understanding? I mean, I'm not fond of spiders. I do think they're fascinating but honestly, if a spider surprises me, I end up screaming and jumping around like I've just gone mental. I can't help it. It's an instinctual reaction. I've actually seen people react this way to dogs, but quite frankly, that's just silliness. My point is that it might be worth it to implement equal opportunity crossings for other animals. But again, herein lies the problem. How would the animals know which crossing was for them? Would we stack all of the signs in one place? Would we post a different sign every few feet? Would we include only mammals? Would we include only wild animals? If you think about it, for any square foot of real estate... urban, rural or wilderness, there are tens of species and depending on the place, hundreds. That is if you include insects. And is it practical to include insects? I mean as a rule, we (humans) don't' really like them. They're not 'pet-able' right? They're not cuddly... Unless you've recently watched "A Bug's Life", then you may think so... for a little while anyway. I don't really have the answer to any of these questions, but I think they're worth thinking about.

And finally, Being Mindful: I once took an Environmental Ethics course from a man I deeply respect. It was one of the most profound and the most depressing courses I've ever had. We discussed a variety of environmental issues including species protection, wilderness protection, energy use and living more responsibly to name a few things. It struck me that people who subscribed to a greener environmental philosophy generally were the same people who loved to hang out in the wilderness. This included me. But I started wondering whether that was even responsible. I mean if you really think about it, everything we do as humans impacts something or someone else. Simple by taking a step on a wild trail, we are altering it. I went around in my head about this for weeks. Like a close encounter with a spider, it almost made me mental.

But here's the thing. I've come to understand that in the process of living, things die. I don't like it. I wish I could change it. But that's the way it is. One day, I will die as well. I especially don't like that, but again, I can't do anything about it. In life, things happen, accidents, tragedies even, but they are uncontrollable and sometimes (not always) unforeseeable. What I can do is appreciate every moment, every sunrise, every connection I make. I can try to be kind. I can try to be loving. I can try to help who and where I can. And I can let myself be human.

And in the meantime, I can honk the horn and yell out the window every few miles to alert the deer that I'm coming. Yes, I really do that ;)

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