• Lijing Cobb

The ramblings of a deer hitter

It was a full moon last night. On my way to my weekly volleyball practice I called my husband 3 times to tell him how beautiful the moon was and that he should take the kids out to admire the moon, but couldn’t get through, so I voice-texted him instead. On the windy road two deer stood in the very middle, and one of them decided to run only when I succeeded in completely stopping about 2 inches away from her. On the court everyone was a little goofy, and there were three separate incidents that led to a bruised nose, a minor head injury, and a rolled ankle. On my way back, so close to home, another pair of deer materialized in front of my car, and this time I was not so lucky to be able to stop fully and avoid one of the deer. Instead of swerving my car and end up in the ditch as I have done a few times in the past, I decided to go straight. There was a small thud as the left front side of my car caught the rear end of the running deer. The noise was minimal, so must be the damage, so I drove on and away.

“Should I stop?” As I continued my homebound journey I wondered to myself. In the rearview mirror I saw that the car who was driving in the opposite direction had its blinkers on and was slowing down to a stop. I kept going and made a right turn at the next light. “What happened to the deer? Is it in the middle of the road now, incapacitated?” I continued musing, but still didn’t stop. “Maybe it’s not too late to turn around and see what’s going on? Some stranger who didn't hit the deer stopped! That must be the right thing to do!” My mind continued to make suggestions, but I pursued the road and pushed on. “What kind of a person am I to hit a deer and not stop? Maybe I can still turn around and go back? Should I???” Before I could make a final determination, I was driving up my long driveway and heading to my parking lot. Oh well, too late now.

I gathered my stuff and got out to examine my car. A piece of plastic was hanging off of the front left side. I pushed it back to its place, and it stayed. The car is 10 years old and has seen multiple accidents, including two other deer-related, much more severe ones, and the very spot that had a brief contact with the deer two minutes ago was already a bit loose. No blood. Maybe the deer was ok after all.

So I walked in the door and sat down next to my husband on the couch, and told him all the moon-related craziness of the night. I asked him if I should have stopped to see if the deer was ok. He said that I should have stopped to check if the car was ok, and it didn’t matter if the deer was ok or not. I said that I’d been fairly certain that the car was ok, and since I probably would not have been able to do anything to help the deer anyway, I drove on. He joked that I was just scheming to get rid of the old car so I could get a new one. Then we moved on to talk about how I did on the volleyball court. I’ve been making some good progress on the court over the past few weeks and I was excited to tell him, my original volleyball coach, exactly what my improvements had been, and what I wanted to work on. After I finished I went upstairs, put down my bag, took a shower, and went to sleep. It was way past my bedtime.

Deer, injured or not, was forgotten by the time I fell asleep.

Compared to human life, a deer’s life seems so trivial and insignificant. On Black Friday in 2005, my then boyfriend and I decided to join the throngs of deal seekers, and as we sped our way to Best Buy on that fateful morning in pitch darkness, we came up to a crest in the road, at the end of which was a row of 4 or 5 deer spread across the entire width of the highway. Later on at the emergency room I learned that my boyfriend had only seen the two on his side of the road, so he cut the wheel right and hit the deer on my side of the road, and then a telephone pole. As the car tumbled in the air 1 & 1/2 turns I thought, ah, this is it. When we landed on the roof and hung upside down, strapped in by the seatbelt, I realized that I was still alive and there was not much damage done to my person, so I asked my boyfriend if he was all right.

I’m sure that the night was cold, but I shook because of the adrenaline that was coursing through my body. I spat out a lot of blood and must have looked like a hot mess were it not for the dark. In my composed alarm I had bitten down hard on my tongue and lacerated it. Afterwards we fought for a while about a bill the telephone company sent us to pay, because the crash had not only totaled the car, but also the telephone pole.

If we talked about the deer at all, it was to fume about how useless and noisome they were. The cause of our accident. They could have ended the lives of two bright young people, one of whom was going to spend a few thoughtful hours writing this future blog and ruminating on the ethical ramifications of such encounters.

My family live in a wooded area, and deer are frequenters of our property. There is not a day that goes by without us seeing 2 or 20. Every spring we plant in our flowerbeds, and every spring and summer when the flowers bloom, many of the animals that live on our wooded property come to share in the bounty of nature. While we prefer to look at the flowers, they prefer to eat them. One year we had the misfortune of planting a few rose bushes without putting tall fencing around them, and just as the flowers came into their full glory, some tall creatures, ahem, deer, enjoyed them for a mid-morning snack. Our deer problem was such that once I called a friend who hunts and literally begged him to come and kill some of these flower eating bastards on our property.

Our kids have learned to bang on the window loudly or go outside on the lawn to chase deer away when they see deer grazing peacefully. We told them that we don’t want deer to be comfortable at our home.

When my mom first came to the US in 2012, she used to marvel at the common sight of deer and squirrels. “They’d be hunted and eaten in China for sure!” She exclaimed. I knew, because I used to tell my non-Chinese friends the same thing. For a long while she couldn’t believe how many deer she would see in the span of just one day. She would count them and report to me when I get home, incredulous. “How come people leave them alone? How come nobody hunts them?”

“It’s just the way it is here, mom. Plus, deer meat is no good to eat anyway.” I had once or twice tasted venison, and could describe the taste as ordinary at best, or yucky at worst.

In the Eastern tradition we learn the “superstition” of reincarnation. In old literature and from the mouths of some old folks we hear the saying that kindness begets kindness and evil begets evil, and what kindness and evil we do in this life will be paid in kind in our next life. In soap operas we often hear a repentant criminal swear that they are going to repay their debt in the next life even if they were reborn as a cow or a horse. In the Yogic tradition and Buddhism there is also the same reincarnation belief, and yogis and Buddhists aspire to be more and more enlightened through each lifetime until they finally reach nirvana.

My ancestors believed that we could have been anything in our previous lives, and we could be anything in our next life if we are not careful: a lowly serpent, a loathsome rat, a foul pig. A dumb deer who sits in the middle of the road to be hit, maimed, and die. Some people still believe that.

Samsara, the cycle of life and death. Some vegans choose their lifestyle for health reasons, some for ethical reasons. If the Buddhists are right and we can be a pig, a cow, a chicken, or a fish in our next life, we would be eating some poor souls who committed one wrong too many in their previous life, and cannibalism is generally frowned upon in this life. The respect for each soul housed in a different flesh suit propels one to make the inevitable choice. Who are we to participate in the taking of innocent lives?

I’m afraid I’m treading on thin ice here. From hitting a deer inadvertently to an ethical and moral discussion on how we may conduct ourselves to respect life in general. If I can say thanks to my cup for serving my tea to me every day, why can’t I appreciate the life of a deer, who might have feelings too, who has its young, old, siblings, friends…, maybe?

Yesterday when I sat down to tell my husband of my night’s encounter, I asked him, “What should I have done?” Now I think that was an impossible question for him to answer. The whole time I was driving away from the accident scene I was wondering what others would think of me if they knew what I did. I was thinking of many different reasons to justify my not stopping. I was thinking of what happened in terms of good or bad.

Last month on this blog I pursued the topic of nonviolence. I did not seek to hurt the deer, but I did because I couldn’t stop in time, so it’s not a moral question. There was no violence committed against anyone. This month I’m examining my relationship with truth, and I’m describing what happened last night as truthfully as I can, and the truth is that after I hit the deer, I thought about going back to see what happened to it but I didn’t, and I fell asleep with a pretty easy conscience.

Perhaps sometimes “bad” things happen, not because of malice on anyone’s part, but because there is a full moon and everyone is a little cra-cra? Perhaps it is not necessary and possible to judge everything in terms of right and wrong, because there are vast areas between the two poles that are up to interpretation and debate? Perhaps sometimes we torment and persecute ourselves over the question of right or wrong, when nature is perfectly neutral? Perhaps deer are in our lives to remind us of how fragile life is, whether we are hanging upside down in a car after hitting a telephone pole, blood in mouth in our human form, or in the middle of road staring into the blinding lights of oncoming traffic, unable to move and save ourselves in the much despised deer form? How do we respect each other in these cold hard collisions that none of us asked for? Can we easily label the parties as victimizer and victim? Should I have swerved and gone into a ditch and hurt myself instead?

So I guess in my books, what happened last night was testimony that there is a divine logic in all things, and when the moon is full, that power holds sway over all of us, believers or not. Did we have control over what transpired on the volleyball court? Maybe we thought we did but no we didn’t. I’m sure the two ladies who got hurt (one, my friend who invited me to the game, got hurt twice, yikes) last night did not plan on getting hurt. Perhaps the deer who got spared from my car on my way there saved a lush pasture for her brother and needed to be protected for her good energy, and the deer who got the hard plastic from my car was mean to his neighbor and needed to be punished. Perhaps the deer that we see lay in the middle of the road, lifeless, has served their life sentence as a deer and is now reincarnated in a higher form of being, one step closer to nirvana?

Crazy rambles from a mind that’s clearly still affected by the power of the full moon. Disregard. But to the deer who got hit by my car last night, please know that it was not personal. It was cosmic.

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