It might have been my husband’s fault. Or mine. Either way, the cacophony of rushing out of the house early on a Saturday morning meant we had forgotten some needed hockey gear. I selfishly volunteered to go home to get it while he stayed at the ice rink with both kids. I was getting the better deal, 20 minutes of solitude.
Driving around a curve on the the serpentine road that leads to our house, a deer emerged from a yard and stepped into the path of my oncoming car. I slammed on the brakes. He didn’t budge, his heavily antlered head held high, seeming to consider me. I had time to count. He was an 8 pointer, as the boys I grew up with would say. I wondered how he had eked out an existence in the middle of a crowded city, how he had lived long enough to grow those enormous antlers despite stepping into the path of cars filled with people on their way to somewhere.
It didn’t seem possible.
He turned away from me and finished crossing the road and was gone.
I cried the rest of the way home.
In the hours after the terrorist attacks in Paris, I was glued to the unfolding coverage and aftermath. Survivors shared accounts, each more horrifying than the one before it. The experts gave insight and made educated guesses and the reporters dissected each new detail.
The morning after, driving to hockey, the four of us had been singing a song on the radio. The sound of our blended voices made my heart hurt. We are rule keepers. We wear our seat belts, pay our taxes, and worship our God. We don’t take stupid risks.
The risk lines keep getting moved. Reporting to work wasn’t dangerous, until we watched people in business suits and skirts jump from the burning World Trade Towers. Going out for a much anticipated Friday night dinner with friends wasn’t dangerous, until innocent Parisians were shot to death at their tables. The riskiest thing about the rock concert at the Bataclan should have been a spilled drink or the ringing ears that would follow concert goers out into that Paris night.
My 10 year old son walked into the room while I was watching the coverage. We try not to watch news around them, but I couldn’t stop. “I thought it was supposed to be a nice city,” he said. We are planning to take him and his sister to Paris next year. “I don’t know if I want to go,” he said.
I couldn’t explain that it’s complicated, that darkness can seep into anywhere, blotting out light. It can happen anytime, anywhere, to any of us. If my mother had said that to me at his age, I would have gotten in bed and pulled the covers over my head. It all would have seemed horrifyingly pointless.
“Paris is beautiful and we can’t live scared,” is what I said. Then I turned off the TV. I believe what I told him, but I worry about our collective humanity, from the slaughter of the innocent in Paris, to the people on social media using it to provoke political fights while they are still counting the dead.
One of the few pieces of video from outside the Bataclan concert hall shows a young woman hanging from a second story window. That girl now knows what other victims of terror knew — the people in the Towers and on the planes and at far too many places on the planet — that in a moment of grotesquely distilled clarity, the only thing that matters is life.
They weren’t their job or the color of their skin or their political party or that upcoming vacation or the divorce they were going through — they weren’t even the next day.
They wanted to live. All the other things that consume the waking moments of our lives are just details and choices that cloud this profound reality.
At times like this, I feel there’s a black cloud threatening the future I want for my children. I despair.
And then around a curve in the road, I am reminded that all the calculating and rule keeping in the world guarantees exactly nothing.
Evil can take away life, but it can’t extinguish the truth — that much of our existence is a miracle, one I will never fully understand.
With his antlered crown blocking my way, he showed me what is easy to forget.
Against the odds, life finds a way.