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Shifting down a few gears to notice a spectacular evening sky

Following a particularly pleasant and productive day, I lingered at work, and then decided to take Route 7 for a leisurely “smell the new mown hay” drive instead of the usual I-88 rush.

I turned off the AC, lowered the rear windows, and uploaded songbird Leslie Uggams’ “Uptown Downtown.” The show had just played at Capital Rep and I was anxious to hear the CD; its 22-song playlist would just about serenade me all the way to my driveway.

Despite the urgings of my better self, I picked up two Bavarian cream-filled treats – you never know when you’ll need extra food for the long commute home — and headed west, into what was starting to become a spectacular sunset. Despite Leslie’s lyrics, there was no stormy weather in sight.

A few minutes past Quaker Street in Duanesburg -– and halfway into the second donut -– a huge four-point buck raced onto the highway, seemingly out of nowhere. I swerved to miss him -– a lot of good that didn’t do!

While steeling myself for the expected thud, I gripped the steering wheel at impact and found my car barreling headlong within feet of the guardrail before plummeting down the embankment into the brush and saplings that grew alongside the road. At one point, with nothing visible except a wave of green, I closed my eyes and waited to hit something I didn’t want to know about in advance. Impeded by the thicket of growth, the car came to a stop. Leslie had stopped singing.

A feminine voice called down to me: “Are you OK? Are you hurt?”

Although not quite sure, I did remove the donut smashed onto the driver’s side window and opened the door. The woman was one of two passengers in the car heading in the opposite direction. She and her daughter had witnessed the past few minutes. They probably saw the deer -– before I did. Then, a man stopped to assess the scene and offered to get his Jeep to pull me up and out.

With all-wheel drive -– and to save face — I opted to back out instead, with his coaching. After four tries -– each time moving forward a few feet before putting the car in reverse. I welcomed his instruction -– no, left … cut to the right, straighten up, don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop! I made it up the hill to the road and sat there for a few minutes.

Everything in the car was thrust forward and mostly in the front seat. I searched for my phone – although the woman already had alerted the police, telling them that no ambulance was needed. I inquired about the buck and was told that after hitting my car, it ran in the opposite direction. I was glad. I didn’t want it taking revenge on me for our disastrous encounter.

The sky was growing dark when a state trooper arrived. He was so levelheaded that it brought me more clearly to my senses. While he was writing the accident report, I started a list of what I would have to do as soon as I got home. I made a few calls … and when he yelled out to caution me to “get out of the road” and stand either in front of the car or get into it, I realized that I was on an adrenaline high.

Within a half-hour and the approaching dusk, I was again on the road under the watchful eye of Trooper Long, who waited to see how the car reacted. A flood of unwanted messages poured into my head; the transmission seemed hesitant to shift.

Although distracted by the psychic jumble, I caught a glimpse of the spectacular evening sky -– a mauve afterglow of day -– crowned by a slowly rising crescent moon. I stopped. I wanted to savor the beauty and to experience the moment, acutely mindful that we just never can be sure of the next moment. No, we just never really know.

Thom O’Connor is a laggard blogger who means to write more often. He is fine. The car was totaled -– and that alone opens him to another world of options, choices and moments unknown.


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