Friday, December 31, 2010

Radical Loving

My “neighbor to the south,” as he calls himself, rang me on a Tuesday November night to ask just how radical I am. “Are you a member of elf?” I heard him say.

“I’m too tall, and they won’t let me in,” I felt like responding, but instead, “No. What’s elf?” I assumed he didn’t mean extremely low frequency, because I generally have a lot of energy.

“ELF is the Earth Liberation Front. They’re the ones who burned down a [ski] resort in Vail several years ago.”

“Oh,” I sort of remembered. “No, not a member.”

“Well, if you’re so radical that you’d take a board out of my gate, I didn’t know if you’d be radical enough to burn down my house,” he surmised, not remembering that five of the eight feet of that gate are on my property. It’s my easement, and my real estate agent stated, “You can do with your part of the easement what you would like, but if Utilities needs to use that part of your property, you might have to remove it,” as it is with the front five feet of Colorado Springs residents’ yards, if the street is 50 feet wide or less.

“It’s a good thing our houses are brick,” I calmly and solidly replied.

“Well, you could throw a Molotov cocktail on my roof, and it would go up in flames,” my neighbor firmly lobbed at me.

Hmm, a crude incendiary device like a grenade: Now that’s radical. No, I won’t be doing that.

[For this story, I googled “ELF” and found the acronym 17 entries down. They’re a domestic terrorist group that finds many former members in prison, a result of their violent actions. And indeed, their original logo was of an elf—holding a weapon. On Wikipedia, I found that on October 19, 1998, the eco-terrorists ELF destroyed a Vail ski resort by arson.]

Monday, the day before my neighbor’s call, was a high-conflict day. I had to deal with Aetna, my health insurer who doesn’t keep its word after my gaining preauthorization. Then I was rejected for a marketing communications management position nearly identical to one I previously held in a department I established and operated. Later I was shorted by another organization that didn’t honor my honesty. I felt beaten up. And though I needed peaceful sleep, I awakened shortly after falling into it.

At 11:30 p.m. I awoke with a start and couldn’t shut my mind down. I felt the weather changing to cold. Isolated aloneness and shivering iciness crawled up my spine, and I wondered if an intruder were in my home. Not a physical body, but an amorphous being that wouldn’t leave a trace of either of us. I listened vigilantly.

Along with every invasive thought, a cracking or creaking sound emanated from a part of my house. No matter which of my sides I rested upon, I couldn’t find comfort. Every direction my mind traveled led me serenely, only to be severed with an abrupt slice of a cleaver.

By some godsend, my mind quieted at 3:30 a.m. and I started to peacefully dream.

But at 4:30 my daughter stood at my doorway and asked, “Mom, did you hear a noise?”

“No,” I mindlessly replied. Had she asked an hour before, I would’ve answered with a “yes, for four hours.”

But this was different, and our dog was barking continually. She scanned the backyard with the Maglite as we both looked through the cloudy old window into the muddy darkness. My eyes are bad and I was exhausted, so I moved away.

“Oh no,” she sadly said, “it’s a fawn. Its leg is stuck in our gate.”

“How do you know?” I asked, hoping she was wrong.

“It’s trying to get out,” she continued. I heard the baby’s cry, like a calf’s.

I rejoined her at the window and, with greater attentiveness, saw the hopeless sight. The gate was unlatched and swung back and forth as the mule deer fawn tried to break away from her trap. “Get dressed. Warmly,” I said, then called my neighbor to the south.

Wearing gloves, coats, and a resolve that was going to save this little life, we all quietly gathered at our back fence in the early morning darkness. With barely a word, the three of us lifted the seven-month-old fawn backward 14 inches to release the nearly severed bottom half of her leg from the decorative metal at the top of our gate. She screamed, crying for her mother who stood nearby with her other fawn. Gently, we set her down and my neighbor told me to get something to put over her eyes.

I discreetly ran inside, scattering the gathering ungulate crowd, and grabbed a bath towel. We wrapped it around her little head and taped it into place, allowing her large ears to flop out and her nose room to breathe.

Like a dog arduously panting after chasing a ball for a half hour or a child running from a perpetrator, her lungs filled with and released air every second. Around her bloody body kneeled three humans, holding her down, blocking any chance of escape.

Wearing his headlamp, my neighbor made his way back into his house to call the Division of Wildlife. My daughter and I kneeled in the darkness next to this hot, panting child of an animal, and we communicated through our senses to calm our unintended victim.

Throughout my life, I’ve been one to be able to see accidents before they happen, and so I take needed precautions to thwart any negative occurrences. I never saw this one coming, and my heart ached.

The wind would pick up and the fawn would stir, anxiously trying to escape with every breeze. A kick from her good hind leg slightly cracked my daughter’s pelvis, not her face a foot away.

My neighbor returned. “Jeremy’s on the phone. This is your land, you need to decide what to do next.”

“Jeremy,” I said, shaking, “thank you for answering the phone so early. You were here helping me before, in July 2008. [See] Did my neighbor tell you what we have here?” and then I started to lose it. I came semi-unglued, though not nearly as I had the last time. I sensed I was going into shock.

Briefly and as nondescriptly as I could, I trembled and asked for his help.

Jeremy said, “She’s already too old to take out east to rehabilitate, so we’ll have to put her down. Your neighbor could do it.” Jeremy knew about my neighbor’s previous affiliation with DOW and his hunter certification training classes. “Does he need the meat?”

My mind jumped several steps backward to my dad’s hunting days, the upside-down hanging deer in our garage, the blood, the pain I felt as he excoriated so many animals, so many species. My breathing jarred, pulsated irregularly, I shook. I moved forward to this moment, didn’t want to make a decision, thought about the little female life lying in our garden on her side in pain, bleeding into the cold ground.

“A cop from the CSPD put down a fawn hit by a car last year. Can we call them?” I asked.

“I’ll call the guy who’s closer to your house,” Jeremy pulled me back. I gave him my mobile number.

Quietly I moved past neighbor and daughter into our house to retrieve my phone and warmer clothes, then returned to the site. We taped her back legs together, one hanging on by her skin, then her front legs. We said little, just held her and offered solace.

Jeremy called. “I can’t get the guy who I work with to answer the phone, so I have an officer with CSPD coming over.” I gave him specifics, told him where the fawn would be.

It must have been about 5:45 a.m. when Officer Cope came over. Even in the dark, we recognized each other immediately—not by event, but by appearance and name. My neighbor had already gone home, my daughter moved into the warmth of our house, and I now sat on the grass holding the barely breathing baby.

“You can go in now,” Officer Cope recommended. “I’m going to call this in, because we’ll probably get some calls from the sound of this,” and he patted his pistol.

Sobbing, I walked into the house. Pop. It was done. Six o’clock in the morning and I’d already caused a fawn’s death, one who’d drunk from our bird bath the day before. Had she been human, sedatives would have been administered and the bottom half of her leg would have been amputated. So many of the deer around here limp. But now this one was dead.

My daughter didn’t go to school. We collected our tools and went outside. Within an hour and a half, we had scrubbed and hosed off most of the blood and skin from the gate. We also removed the swirled, decorative metal from three of our gates and took one horizontal board from the top of our fence, the one my neighbor called his gate, so the deer wouldn’t hit it anymore.

If you have an accident waiting to happen, I encourage you to alleviate the potential. It has been 52 days, and I am finally writing about this event. I’ve awakened in the middle of the night numerous times, panicked from seeing our little fawn trapped and unable to escape. I wish this on no one, especially not our wildlife.

Sometimes I think: To hell with fences. My neighbor to the south indicates that my anthropomorphism is wrong. To hell with that too.

Oh, and Officer Cope? I called to let him know that he had warned me to slow down one day after buying my new car—in 1994.

If animals behaved more like humans, we’d be doomed.
If humans behaved more like animals, we’d be ———.

Foamy Slippers

In December, the Institute of Noetic Sciences community group assembled in my home for our monthly meeting of the minds. Afterward, the 16 of us socialized for a while, drawn into smaller collections of conscious energy to expand on previously discussed topics.

I was initially drawn to share intimate God-time with one woman, who prayed with me for healing. This was interesting, because in the 10 years of my involvement with this evolving noetic body, I had been the only professed Christian (who, by the way, has been spontaneously healed in a prayerful environment).

Feeling pleasantly blessed, I sauntered toward the dining area, where another person engaged me with her feelings and observations. When I revealed recent self-deprecating events, she dragged me down the hall for a love-filled admonishment.

Slightly roughed up but now feeling a sense of purpose, I felt more empowered and cared about than I had been in ages. Walking three inches above the carpet, I headed toward the front door. There, the admonisher’s husband, Don, began a conversation about the eve’s events. Then with a quick glance, he caught sight of my feet.

“Whose slippers are those?” he asked quizzically, wondering if these huge flippers belonged to the guy screaming in the back room.

“Oh, they’re for guests,” I meekly replied. “We have a hot tub, so I keep extra slippers around—large ones.”

“They make you look like a clown,” he chuckled.

Sure enough, when I looked down and saw my Christmas stockings slid into oversized black slippers, I had to agree. I already felt they were dangerously cumbersome when walking up and down our stairs, but I’d never bothered to take in my ridiculous appearance.

I offered an excuse. “I washed my two pairs of regular slippers today and they’re still wet, so I slid into these. Plus they started disintegrating in the washer, and the process continued in the dryer. Some of the cardboard fell out, and now the foam is protruding.” I headed for the nearby closet to prove my claim. “Look.”

As I displayed my comfy, old burgundy slippers, Don looked from them to me. “Slippers don’t cost that much. You could go to Target and pick some up for a few bucks. Those things are shot,” he correctly observed.

“Aw, but they’re clean! I can’t just toss them.” I felt proud of my spartan lifestyle, though slightly embarrassed about being so cheap. I decided not to show him the other pair—my hot tub slippers.

“I think you should just throw them out,” Don advised.

So I ask, What’s the difference between frugal and downright cheap?

Frugal is buying a good-quality pair of slippers at a reasonable cost that have the potential of having a long life. Cheap is keeping them two years after they’ve died.

I think there’s a law against that.

So, Don, the blue ones are headed for a landfill, but the worn-in, comfy burgundy ones, well, we might have to kick that idea around a bit.