We all want to be seen, so does wildlife.
We all want to matter.
We all want to feel as though our lives make a difference.
When I die, I want to be remembered for the voice I gave to animals. They speak their own language, and in our incessantly changing and developing landscape, they need to be heard. Seen.
I’ll tell you story. About some animals I met. I have many.
I was tooling down Boulder Canyon in my grey pickup truck—the ol’ grey mare—one morning, on my way to our law practice in my former life. It was sunny, the day just beginning.
As I reached mid-Canyon, a white-tailed doe ran across the road in front of the truck—not an unusual sight in our wolfless-too-many-deer-landscape. What shocked me most was the smallish black bear, in hot pursuit. I did a double take, slamming on the brakes, veering off to the gravel area to catch up with myself. Gratefully, no one was riding my rear-end as they are inclined to do in the Canyon on any other day.
The doe was mortally wounded, I could see from the absence of her hoof and blood on her left back leg. I was helpless to do anything for her. Wildlife is, well, wild and nature will have Her way. I watched, from the safety of the cab of that ol’ grey mare, as the doe leaped over Boulder Creek, hightailing it up the steep mountainside on the other side. I admired her tearfully.
The bear? She paused—nose lifted to the air to catch the doe’s scent, I imagine—before she continued across the creek. I hadn’t the heart to watch the ending of any of it, so I took back to Boulder Canyon and continued on to our law practice down in Boulder.
I breathed in, to evoke compassion for the doe and also, for the bear. Suffering and nature are synonymous. I breathed out, to make space, to bring light and warmth. Somewhere in there, I found a little compassion for myself. I feel pain where animals are concerned. I feel their suffering. I want to cry out in anger for the things that happen to them. If I allow myself, I could turn bitter. It takes concerted effort and practice to keep my heart open—and still, many days I fail.
I try to meet each rise of anger—for the things we do to them in our distracted lives—with openness, allowing the energy to dissipate, and simply feeling the inherent sadness for their loss.
And still, I get pissed off.
In these moments, I reach for something. I believe we all need to. I for something I can do to make a difference.
I always try to drive aware. I try to keep to the speed limit, although I do get caught up some days in the rush and effort to eke out a living. We’re all human.
Here’s what else I do: I expand my peripheral vision, to include wildlife. The fox, trotting along the roadside at dusk. The moose—road stupid, all of ’em—standing on the center line of Boulder Canyon in the springtime. (Yes, moose. We have an increasing population up here in the Foothills, they are rompin’ and screwin’ with wild abandon.) The juvenile raccoons–playing at the corner along The Alps, completely unaware their little game of paddy cake could have ended fatally had I come ripping around the corner in a hurry that Thursday evening last Spring.
I’m married now, to a physicist. He helped me quantify all of this with some science—reduce it down to some facts and figures for a different approach. I offer it up for you to investigate and consider for yourself:
Speed vs. reaction time. For every 10 miles per hour that we travel in our cars, we are covering nearly 15 feet each second. At 30 mph, that’s 45 feet per second. At 60 mph, it’s 90 feet per second.
If we need just one second to see something—a prairie dog, a raccoon, an elk—and then react by hitting a brake or steering, we can gain an an extra 15 feet of reaction time for every 10 mph we reduce our speed.
No claims or guarantees, of course, that by slowing down we can avoid taking a coyote out of the game of her life. But if we do slow down and drive more aware, we can at least give them a fighting chance. 15 feet can make the difference between life and death. Slow down to save a life—your own, an animal’s or both.
We all want to be seen. So does wildlife!
Author: Denise Boehler
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren