Slow down, you move too fast

The new year has barely begun, and already I can feel it moving at a fast, unhealthy pace.

More accurately, I can feel my self moving too fast. It is as though I am giving in and allowing myself to be propelled forward through fast moving water.

Everything has to be done quickly.

I have lived in many places around the world, and life moves most quickly in Massachusetts. I am no sooner swiping my credit card through the machine at the grocery store but the next person in line is breathing down my neck.

No subtlety in the urgency to be advancing closer to whatever unforeseen goal is next on the list.

No patience.

No time for chit chat like there was in my life in Africa, France, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska.

I made snarky comments about it, but I also notice myself getting pulled in—on the highway, waiting in line, walking down the street.

Massachusetts’ motion has followed me to Arizona to visit my partner, and it has followed me from one year into the next.

We went for a wonderful, leisurely walk around Lynx Lake this afternoon. Along the way, we stopped to look and listen to birds and to take photographs. The only urgency I experienced was in the need to answer nature’s call and to respond to the rumblings in my stomach as the walk drew to a close.

Back on the highway, the call for speed returned with a vengeance. Yes, I was hungry after going for a walk and then getting some groceries. But there was really very little need to be in such a hurry.

As we turned onto 89, we noticed a bunch of cars had slowed to a crawl a few hundred feet ahead.

“Maybe they are stopping to look at a bird,” I joked.

Cars slowed to a near stop, and I could feel my pulse racing and temper flaring.

Seriously, what is going on? Why the f*($ are they going so slow? Come on.

What was wrong with me? Who was this person? We were only a mile from home. No big deal. And why be in such a hurry to get home? Could I not wait a few extra seconds to change into sweatpants and sit on the couch?

As we moved forward, I noticed small, broken pieces on the lane to our right. They were pieces from a car.

“There must have been an accident,” I said, my voice subdued.

And then I saw her, a deer lying crumpled in the road ahead.

We drove by slowly, and I watched her.

Her body was completely broken, her legs folded in half beneath her. She looked away from us toward the guardrail and beyond.

What was she looking? Anything? Nothing? The lake and trees she had been traveling toward? Through a dark tunnel toward a distant light?

I watched and felt nothing. I was outside of my body. I watched her stomach rise and fall in short spurts.

In an instant, I was reaching out, opening the door handle, and running toward her. I had to fix her. This was my fault.

Instead, I sat still and did nothing.

We drove on in silence. My partner took my hand and squeezed it.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

More than melancholia, I was fuming. “I hope they feel bad,” I said.

In my head, I was imagining that the people who hit the deer were more concerned about the damage to their car and the hassle of having hit something than the breach of unspoken trust they had set in motion by ending the life of a wild, beautiful being.

And she was beautiful. Lying in the highway, her dark eyes looking at something I will never see, thinking thoughts I will never know.

I didn’t mean it. It was likely an accident.

The people who had hit the deer had signed the same contract as I make each time I close a car door, start an engine, and pull out of the driveway. It is an unspoken agreement with the notion that life is tenuous.

Beyond the deer, I thought about how quickly I would move past the tragedy of life lost and start thinking about other things—dinner, movies, bills, a dress I saw and liked in the window of a shop in downtown Prescott. What else could I do? For me, life would go on, without her. Had she not been hit, I would not have given her a second thought. This strange, sad meeting of the species brought us together and caused a jumpstart in my own awareness of the world outside my own egocentric bubble.

I closed my eyes and spoke to her.

Be at peace. I am so sorry. I hope you are not in pain. I love you. I am so sorry. Be at peace.

Life is tenuous, and I wish I could fix the hurt and pain I witness each day. I do not like mortality, even though I know it is necessary and can be beautiful.

A merlin swooping to catch the one injured dunlin in a flock of a thousand is at once haunting and breathtaking.

A kestrel catching a grasshopper in midair and lifting its legs to its mouth in one motion, and continuing its flight is surreal.

A device of humankind killing beings that live beyond the borders of our strange, insane existence is tragic.

And the ease within which I immerse myself in the rituals of this fast-paced life is something worthy of pause, for reflection and reevaluation.

Each day, I make thousands of small choices.

I know I move too fast.

I can choose to slow down, and remember.

I will not forget.

2 thoughts on “Slow down, you move too fast

  1. Great post, and a great idea. I noticed the same thing happen in a strange way on Dec 31st as I was driving from West Virginia to home. People drive “normally” in West Virginia. There are great distances, and the mountains mean you have to drive a lot actually. But I never experienced traffic jams on the highways that go through it or anything. People were relatively polite. Coming out of West Virginia, into Maryland, I noticed a slight quickness. This rose as I drove north into Pennsylvania. Keep in mind, all of this happens within 3 – 5 hours of driving. If you look at a map, there are points at which West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania are very close to one another… and then New Jersey is only an hour or two beyond those points. In Pennsylvania I noticed my first “super fast weaving guys”. You know, the ones who drive with no order whatsoever, they just go 90 and weave in and out of traffic in fluid motions. These guys increased the minute I was on I-95 and heading into New Jersey. I do have to say though that the holidays make things stressful. I saw ridiculous activity on the road driving down to Florida while in South Carolina. License plates were all North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia. I think there are always “those people” wherever you go… but they don’t exist in great numbers until something like a holiday puts them all on the road at the same time.

    Last thing, your experience with the deer was very similar to my experience while driving in Florida. Not to diminish your experience, but one almost expects to see wild animals like deer, armadillos, raccoons dead and lifeless on the road. However, on my way to my brother’s place on the Space Coast, I saw a fluffy red-haired ball on the side of the road. As I passed it, I saw that it was a tiny Pomeranian dog. It was just a weird thing to see such a highly bred dog like that lifeless on the side of the road almost as if someone threw it from a window. Anyway, I felt so sad because I knew that this was someone’s pet. What a sad thing to think that such a tiny animal had to bravely face its demise in such a way, a gray hard path upon which monstrous behemoths of metal and oil rampage down without any awareness of much until it’s much too late.

    1. Jeff,

      Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt comment. It is interesting how we can all get drawn in to the stress and speed of life, holidays, highways, etc. I always feel sad when I see an animal that has lost its life to a moving vehicle. Pets draw at my heart strings, too. But with awareness and love, life goes on.

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