Out Divine Corners Way by Jonathan Shimkin
Driving down Old Liberty Road, I spotted a deer poised on the left shoulder and slowed way down, not knowing if she would bolt or freeze, or do some unfortunate combination of bolting and freezing, which is about all I’ve seen deer do under such circumstances.
But this one did something I had never seen before: she looked to the left, she looked to the right, just like we were always told to do as kids, and waited patiently till I passed. I was the only car on the road. I checked the rear-view and watched her watching me go by; then she looked back to her right and, as all was clear, sauntered across into the brush along the right shoulder.
Had she figured out this “look both ways before crossing” maneuver on her own? Perhaps another deer had taught her, and, if so, would that knowledge be passed on to her offspring, in some Lamarckian fashion? Was the human environment producing smarter deer? All species are, in some measure, reciprocally adapted to each other and to the environment they inhabit. Maybe deer are learning something from our human traffic. Is there some equivalent knowledge we have yet to learn from deer?
I’ve been long familiar with the warning sign about rattlesnakes at the head of the trail at Sam’s Point Preserve, but I’d never seen the creature until this summer. It was right out there, very visible, half in the road, half in the brush, just across from the Berry Pickers’ shacks, with a thick, dark-toned body and the distinctive segmented rattle on its tail. I didn’t move; the snake didn’t move; I watched it for a while, until it very slowly withdrew into the brush. The encounter wasn’t too unnerving. I felt kind of honored to have actually met one after so many years; it was like encountering a legend.
When I got home, I looked up “snake” in a dictionary of animal totems and read that the creature represented the “energy of wholeness” and “the knowledge that all things are equal in creation, and that poison can be eaten, ingested, integrated, and transmuted if one has the proper state of mind.” The “poison” part is a clear metaphoric extension of the snake’s venom; as to what constitutes “a proper state of mind” for ingesting the snake’s message, I’m still investigating that part.
A robin went bonkers in our yard and started attacking our parked cars. We had no idea what got into it. It perched on the right side-mirror and started pecking away furiously at the glass. Maybe it caught a glimpse of itself and thought the reflection was another bird, igniting some territorial instinct. Maybe it was nesting and avid to protect its young. In any case, the robin first went after our neighbors’ car. Each time they chased it off the bird would settle within view and fly straight back to the side-mirror as soon as the bothersome humans went away. Eventually our neighbors got fed up chasing it off and wrapped a paper bag around the offending mirror. As the robin took no interest in the left side-mirror, this covering prompted it to redirect its efforts to our car – same manic hammering on the right-side mirror. So, we put a paper bag over ours as well. We wound up with a row of cars with paper bags over their mirrors, which mollified the bird, who eventually dropped its deranged project.
One day, in the midst of this whole drama, I drove off forgetting to remove the paper bag. Half-way down Divine Corners Road the wind whipped the bag off the mirror and it flew across the windshield, startling the hell out of me. I thought it was a bird.
Jonathan Shimkin, writer and editor, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via his website: jonathanshimkin.weebly.com.