If you've read anything else I've written, or if you know me, you know that I love to go running in the morning. Believe it or not, I think I may even be addicted!
Part of the allure is the fact that it is so peaceful. I find it easiest to have a really close, open talk with God when I'm up before everyone else. It is much easier for me to focus, and I think nothing makes me feel closer to God than looking up at the star-filled richness of a sky so thickly blue-black that I feel like I can reach up and touch it.
Being Texas - it is also nice that the sun hasn't risen to bake everything to a crispy oven-like warmth. Even the concrete has cooled to a reasonable temperature after 8 or more hours out of its punishing rays.
But I think a small part of the exhilaration is the heebie-jeebies I sometimes get from things unknown and unseen in the dark. I absolutely love to be just a little be scared (and the adrenaline certainly doesn't hamper my running ability). Horror movies rarely can do it for me anymore, even if I watch them alone and in the dark. Granted - Backdraft can scare me to death anytime, but it is a different kind of fear ... not the pulse rushing flood of excitement I'm thinking of.
One of the first mornings I was out running, I saw a coyote. Truth be told, they are a little smaller than your average Labrador retriever, but they have that wild look. At first, my mind responded by offering me places to hide ... "Tree, fence, rock!!" Against the plea of my pounding heart, I instead yelled a tentative "Hey!" to see if coyotes are scared of people or not.
Turns out - he was much more frightened than I was.
What I'm most afraid of those mornings may surprise you. Deer. Yes, I'm a little afraid of Bambi. When I see a decent sized buck, I'm not thinking how gracious and beautiful they are (honestly - I think they are a little skittish and none-too-bright). I'm thinking they are something that makes some nice sausage or chili. I'm thinking that they carry ticks. Especially in the fall ... rutting season ... I'm thinking that they have horns made for tussling and pointy little hooves ... and that my belly is rather soft and unarmored.
Many years ago, back when I was forcing myself to run rather than enjoying it, I remember something that was so surreal it almost seems like it didn't happen. I'm chugging along, dragging my rear through the streets of a small community north of Austin, when eight young bucks cross the road about 50 yards ahead of me. A cacophony of sharp hoofs clattered against the pavement - I almost expected to see a sleigh and a man in a red suit behind them. While I realize that the fact they were traveling together means that they were not, in fact, rutting ... I couldn't help but remember a shredded tree the previous year in my front yard. Gored on the antlers of a deer much like them.
This week, Wednesday I think it was, I was running down the middle of the road (something you shouldn't usually do) and in the woods adjacent I hear something crashing alongside me. I can only assume it is a deer, and with the recent cooler temperatures my mind turns to worry that it could very well be starting to feel the flood of hormones that turns Bambi from a gangly, cute helpless little creature to an armed wildlife creature bent on one purpose.
I never saw what was making the sound, but it must have been haunting me. Thursday morning, sometime early, in that strange period that can't be called waking or sleeping, I had a vivid dream.
In the dream, I am running down the same road, when a deer leaps into the center and skids sideways, turning its head toward me. It lets out an baleful sound - something like a screech and a bellow, the white showing in a ring around its dilated pupils.
All I can do is shake my head, slowly, muttering "I'm not a deer, I'm not a deer!" Thinking somehow that I can persuade him that I am neither his enemy nor his goal. All the while, the stories of people attacked by deer - even killed - flip through my mind old newsreel headlines ... abdomens torn open, ribs bruised and broken, soft human flesh no match for horn and hoof ...
Of course it was only a dream, but I had to swallow panic this morning when I couldn't get the gate open on my way home, sweating and tired. Had a deer happened upon me in that moment - I would have been trapped and virtually helpless!