I keep my cellphone far away from me at night these days. For the past several months I have elected to drop technology completely from my bedroom in an attempt to create a more relaxing and restful environment. I use a Moonbeam alarm clock to wake up instead of my cellphone alarm, and I do not miss my phone one bit. Not when I’m reading. Not when I’m falling asleep. And especially not in those precious early morning moments when I’m waking up to greet a new day. Instead of reaching for my phone to check emails and social media updates, I stretch, say a few prayers of gratitude, read some meditations, rock a few yoga poses, and start off my day right.
So it was strange this week to have the cellphone back on the nightstand. My oldest son was away at camp, which means that I needed my phone by my bedside—not because he was homesick. He definitely wasn’t. But because, you know, I’m his mother. That’s what mothers do.
It was the best and worst possible time for me to have my phone at an arm’s length first thing in the morning. The current racial climate in our country has had me engaged in some Facebook discussions in which I restated my support for the Black Lives Movement, which resulted in disappointing yet unsurprising backlash from some people. It was a reminder of why I try to avoid Facebook on a general basis, and it was a good reason to get away from it again.
I’ve gone long stretches with a break from Facebook, having deleted the app from my phone. For the first five months of this year I only checked my account once or twice a week on my computer, with my posts being mostly Instagram photos that I shared to the site without ever logging in. Only since roughly the end of the school year have I become again more entrenched in Facebookland—through the browser on my phone, because I refuse to reinstall the app--mostly because I’ve got a little more free time. I also have a lot to say about the status quo of American society, and I’m brave enough—and stupid enough—to share my thoughts about it in that space.
So Wednesday morning I woke up, did my standard morning routine, and then fired up the phone. As expected, there were no texts from my boy—he was too busy being 14 and away from home. But there were some distressing comments to a recent Facebook post of mine, a post that was centered more on looking at a situation from a black man’s point of view than it was of anything else. After rolling my eyes and feeling a knot well up in my chest, I sleepily typed out what I hoped was a coherent response. Then I posted that Facebook needed to fix its face because its ugly is showing. “Peace out,” I said. And I meant it.
I was barely awake, but the “peace out” was genuine. I just knew that if I want to keep my own peace of mind, which I need if I want to be able to think clearly about the big issues of our time and the work that must be done to fix them, then I can’t have my brain muddled by the cacophony of thinly-veiled racism on social media. I need a break from the ugliness. For the record, there’s a lot more that makes Facebook ugly than just the current conversations on race, gun control, and our upcoming presidential election. I need a big break from all of it.
I decided to go for a run. I’ve gotten back into my running groove, and it feels fantastic. Summer heat mandates that my delicate constitution run earlier in the day, however, since late day temperatures make it tough to muddle through three or four turtle miles. So at 6:30, I wrestled myself into a sports bra, popped in my earbuds, and took off for pre-breakfast 5k.
Anyone who runs knows the first mile is a liar, especially early in the morning when you’re still rubbing sleep from your eyes. With “The Cool Out” from the Clash helping me lumber toward the one-mile mark, I began to look forward to the second hill of my route, since I was finally picking up some speed and momentum. I rounded the corner to take the hill, setting my sights at the top of it.
And there was a deer.
This beautiful young deer was just standing on the sidewalk about 20 feet in front of me. It was so unexpected and peaceful, I gasped. It stared at me, and I stared back. I was afraid to move. Morning traffic was increasing on the main road at the top of the hill, and I didn’t want to scare the poor thing right into it. I raised my phone to take a photo of the gorgeous creature, but then I stopped. I decided I wanted to just experience that moment rather than document it. I wanted that moment to be between only me and the deer. I’m tired of sharing so much of my life with the Internet.
The deer gracefully strutted across the Upson Terrace, becoming more skittish as it neared the main road. It crossed back toward my side but then stood in the road for a moment as I signaled to an oncoming car to slow down. The old man driving the equally old station wagon yelled out his window to me, “What’s he doing around here? He looks lost.” Then he coughed a smoky laugh and drove on.
I slowly trailed the deer to the intersection, where my obnoxious, blaze-orange running shorts helped get a few drivers to slow down and even stop as the deer decided to bolt across the main thoroughfare. So there we were, me on the even side of Townsend Avenue and the deer on the odd side. I felt like if I could just make sure that he made it to the big chunk of open land at the Townsend estate just a couple of blocks away, then I could relax. I didn’t trust most of the speeding drivers on Townsend to stop in time if the deer bolted again. Getting him to that wide open space would be an assurance that he was safe for at least a little while.
The deer sniffed around the corner property to which he had crossed, and then he gingerly poked around the grass of the neighboring lawn. I began to run again, much slower than usual, keeping an eye on him. As I ran, he began to pick up speed, so I sped up. He kept going faster, and so did I. I can’t explain why I felt it was so important to keep up with this deer, but it did. He gracefully leapt over a hedgerow. I laughed. He glanced my way and kept going, with me mirroring him far less gracefully across the road. For a block we ran together. His scamper was my all-out-haul.
He slowed at a side-street corner and seemed to actually look both ways before he crossed and made his way toward the tall grass of the Townsend estate. I stopped for a moment as he lingered by a driveway at the edge of the property. “Go, go,” I whispered, as if he could hear me. “Go, be safe.” And just like that, he scampered behind a high row of boxwood and was gone.
I turned back to the sidewalk before me. I smiled. What had just happened? Everything, and nothing. I picked up my pace again.
A block later I passed an older gentleman who teaches at another high school in New Haven. I was beaming, “I just saw a deer!” I exclaimed with the giddiness of a little kid.
“Beautiful,” he said as he passed me. “But watch out for the black bears. I saw one on Kneeland on my run a few days ago.”
I turned my head over my shoulder to reply, “They’re more afraid of us than we should be of them.”
“Maybe, but you never know,” he called back. I didn’t turn around.
My strides were lighter and freer, and I wanted to run forever—toward a place where deer, and bears, and even people can share space without fear. Instead, I ran home and shared my story with my husband and younger son. And I was proud of myself for having no pictures to prove any of it.