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E-M:/ the accident



          On Sunday (November 23), one of my 30-something friends, who is
     in what I call an early developmental stage of appreciating the
     natural world, and myself went over to the campus of Grand Valley
     State University in west Michigan.  My friend, whose name is Sherryl,
     wanted me to see the ravines that thread through the university
     property.  She

’s a psychology major, currently taking one of the
     compulsory science classes, a geology course, and she is also seeking
     to understand the technological, scientific labeling of an unfamiliar,
     natural world.
           We descended into the ravines and begin exploring along the
     bottom through the twists of the creek bed. We talked about the
     fossils that we found, about soil erosion, and the mineral content of
     this area and the rest of what we both knew and thought to share about
     what we were looking at.  I indicated the deer tracks at our feet and
     said that they looked fresh.  She asked me about the raccoon tracks
     pressed into the soil along the creek edge.  Within a half-hour of the
     walk’s progress, we startled a deer into flight.  My friend, who is
     basically a city person, was delighted with seeing the common Michigan
     mammal.  As we followed the creek, we startled two more deer into
     flight up and out of the ravine.  We paused a moment to watch them as
     they disappeared over the top.  I immediately said, when I heard the
     loud and sickening smack, that I “hoped the deer had not crossed the
     highway.”  We looked at each other.  “I’ve got to go see what
     happened”, I said.  “I don’t want to see it flopping around and
     suffering,” Sherryl pleaded in response.  “Then stay here,” I told
     her.
          Without any kind of implement to end the animal’s suffering,
     there wasn’t much I was going to be able to do if it was still alive,
     but I had to see and satisfy myself about the situation.  I heard
     Sherryl climbing behind me, despite my suggestion that she stay behind
     and I thought, “Good.”  I beat the drum on this quite a bit, because I
     believe that as humans, we constantly disconnect from the tragedies of
     the world, particularly from the finalty of death.  Distasteful as it
     was, she needed to see this and her desire to follow me despite the
     fear was a confirmation.  I crossed the highway and saw that three
     people were looking over a guardrail and down an embankment.  I prayed
     that they were looking at a dead animal and upon reaching their
     location, I could see that the animal’s death was fairly certain.  I
     scrambled down through the brush and looked to make sure the deer
     wasn’t breathing.  Its head was thrown back at a skewed angle, the
     tongue protuding and I knew that the end had come quickly.
          The traffic ceaselessly whizzed above where I stood, as I noted
     that the deer’s corpse was settling at my feet.  I could barely see
     the muscles relaxing.  “It looks like paint”, my friend said, “I mean
     the blood,” she added.  “Are one of you folks going to call this in?,"
     I asked the couple and the older man who stood peering down at me.
     They had been haggling between themselves as to who did what and when
     it was done in regard to the accident.  “Oh, yes,” we’ll call it in,
     the woman said from behind her sunglasses.  I didn’t believe her.  The
     older man, whose van had apparently grazed the doe again after the
     couple hit it, stated that he thought the sheriff’s department was the
     authority that they needed to call.
          I walked back with Sherryl to the university’s security office
     and asked a young man there to call the DNR (or the sheriff’s office)
     with information on the accident.  Sherryl was concerned about our
     culpability in what happened because we startled the deer.  “This is
     not something that you can control,” I told her.  “Deer/car accidents
     are very common in Michigan right now because the herd population is
     so high. The traffic speed and volume on the highway going past this
     school is also very high.”  We talked a bit more about esoteric
     reasons like higher will and karma, but in the end I said, “The
     situation and conditions were right for this to happen.  Again, these
     are the consequences of having automobiles mixing with a very
     successful wildlife species in a highly populated human area of
     habitation.”
          Obviously, neither one of us had solutions.  We have only the
     usual suspect list of great big questions that people like us have
     when we’re faced with the awful and terrible complexity of human roles
     in the world as they exist now.  And we like to talk.  We felt bad
     about the situation and the fate of the deer.  In an auto-less world,
     it might have been just a couple of women out for a walk, startling
     off a pair of animals that could have gone on in safety and we would
     not have had to ask any big questions.  But on this day, as unwilling
     participants, the accident was a statement about an out of balance
     world directed at us.