Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Animal Instinct

It took a few seconds before I noticed him standing there. I was busy huffing and puffing at the top of the Jud Wiebe, a local Telluride trail, angry with myself that once again I was stepping into the Imogene Pass Race without much training. Earlier in the spring, I’d had dreams of shaving a half an hour off of previous Imogene times. Now I’d be lucky to beat that elusive 4-hour mark.

I bent down to tighten my shoes for the descent and wished for a moment I could just lie there and look up at the early morning clouds. Home life was exhausting.  Siri, my 5-year old, had decided that throwing a tantrum was a good reaction to anything I requested of her, whether it was putting on her shoes or going to the bathroom. Quincy, the 2-year old, had decided that sleeping through the night was not for her. Andy was pulling long hours at the Telluride Mountain School, getting things ready for students to arrive, and to elevate our spirits the night before, we’d decided to split a bottle of Chianti. None of which was helping me on this run.

Still, animal instincts have a way of cutting to the core when something’s wrong, even if in this case, my layers of self-absorption coiled around me like a boa constrictor. Something was with me. I looked behind me. My initial thought was bear. There had been several sightings recently, and for the past few nights, we’d heard bears toppling trashcans in the alley. I started thinking about how I could make myself look large. Should I take off my camelback perhaps and swing it around? This sounded ridiculous but according to some bear article I’d stumbled upon, this was exactly what I was supposed to do. I looked behind me. There was nothing.

I looked forward again, and this time I saw him, a deer, his black nose a perfect match for aspen tree knots. His antlers were still covered with a brown velvet, looking all the more like the branches by which he stood. Nothing in his body moved. Not even his breath was perceptible. Had we not been where we were, I could have mistaken him for a statue. We looked at each other for what felt like was minutes but was really only a second, and then I turned.

I wished for a moment that I could tell him—look you have nothing to fear—don’t waste any energy on me. I’m just a mom, sometimes writer, sometimes teacher, and less often traveler, out for a morning jog. But trying to talk to deer is reserved for either those more tapped into the natural world than I am or for those who’ve lost any scrap of sanity, and I’m hoping that I’ve got a grip on the latter. Besides, my iPod had just died, leaving me with more important things to work out like: how was I going to finish this run without music?

My initial reaction was one of frustration—how could I have forgotten to charge this thing? That question was soon followed by one far more practical: when do I ever charge this thing? It’s about time it died.

I yanked the plugs out of my ears and picked up the pace. I decided to enjoy what I was doing instead of beating myself up. I was just a mom/writer/ teacher. But at that moment, I was also a runner. Seeing the world at its best. At 6:30 on a Wednesday morning as the full moon sank and the sun rose and the deer came out to nibble some grass and check out the world. Who the hell but me cared how fast I was moving?

Thanks Melissa Plantz for these beautiful fall shots and for the background shot on the home page.

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