Today I left the beach briefly in the middle of my workday to go to the post office in town. It’s a short drive, just a few miles on a two-lane paved road, a straight shot east through farmland and orchards. I drive carefully because I know there are farm dogs, raccoon, chipmunks, deer, porcupine, field mice, all manner of living creatures and being the sensitive person I am, I don’t want to take a life (ticks, mosquitoes, black flies, and Very Big Spiders excluded).
And what I was thinking about on this drive, out of nowhere, was my mother.
Of all the ways I didn’t want to be like her, I am most like her in sharing this heightened sensitivity. It just about drove me crazy when I became a driver and I realized how painfully, impossibly slow she drove through the streets of our suburb. Like, 10 miles an hour slow, sometimes (although I may be exaggerating). I remember a conversation with her where, when I complained about the pace, she said she would not drive faster because you never knew when a squirrel or a dog or a cat or a kid might run into the road. She said nothing beyond that, and I probably rolled my eyes and sighed and slumped into the seat like a brooding teenager. But I get it. Because if one of those things did cross her path suddenly, and she couldn’t stop her car in time, it would have been too much for her. Too much for her to hurt or kill something, someone.
And just as that realization began to crystallize in my head I saw, in the dry, earthy field to my right, the young deer that was about to cross my path at breakneck speed. I already knew there was no one behind me so I could safely slow. No one was coming in the opposite lane. She flew across the road at a safe distance in front of my car–I mean really flew–and bounded away through the green field to my left. My breath left me for a moment.
It was these what if’s, the might be’s, that made my mother drive slowly and carefully despite any annoyed passengers. In her driving and in her words, she would have rather stayed slow, quiet and purposeful, than hurt anyone or anything. While it’s not easy to share her sensitive nature, I don’t balk at sharing her refusal to purposely hurt. She believed in love, even though she was wounded, and in weighing her words before speaking. I carry her wounds and her nature if not always her skill at holding her tongue. I believe in love, and peace, and the refusal to be the cause of any being’s pain.