One of the most bizarre things happened to me in college. I was about to begin my sophomore year, and was making the four hour drive from my hometown back to Denver.
On that drive back to the city, in the middle of a blinding, torrential downpour, I saw a deer get struck by lightning.
* Cue Law and Order‘s “dun-dun.” *
And this is my story.
Lightning Isn’t Personal
Originally posted in the August 2015 edition of the CU Denver Advocate.
The odds of seeing a deer get hit by lightning are slim, and thankfully so.
When electrostatic discharge is hurled from the sky with anywhere between 100 million to 1 billion volts of electricity, getting struck is an unfortunate fate. It was deplorable, to say the very least, when I witnessed a deer experience its final moments as a living creature before falling victim to lightning’s power.
I was the road back to Denver after saying a heavy-hearted goodbye to summertime, my family, my dogs, and the beautiful Gunnison valley, when suddenly a hail storm took over my visibility. In an effort to be safe, I pulled over on the side of the highway. As if drawn by Snow White’s call, a deer stumbled out from a bundle of trees less than 10 feet away from my parked car.
Seconds later, there was an intense streak of light and I was blinded by a pure and radiant whiteness. As the consciousness of my eyesight returned, the deer reacted to the blow—falling to the ground gracefully before convulsing, jerking as each breath became a tremendous act of labor.
The crack of electricity hitting the pavement was louder than the agonized scream of the deer, but it couldn’t quite cover the stench of a burning animal. My own reaction was much less gallant; I puked on myself and fled back to the driving lane. I could only cry. And when I did, the only option was to dry my eyes with my soiled shirt, further contributing to a cycle of disgust and self-pity and same-day homesickness.
When I retell this story, there’s a pretty clear theme. The tone has been more or less self-deprecating—I’ve been referring to the incident as a testament to how poorly my last couple of days have been. Fair enough. I mean, I have a ruined shirt and a fresh trauma to prove it.
And sure, it was hard. Life has been on a spectrum of difficulty lately, especially with the transition from one season of family and home into another of independence and stress. Not to mention, driving over an hour with fresh vomit hardening on my t-shirt wasn’t exactly a highlight of my week.
But let’s be real: I’m okay. I came out of a close-call scenario alive, which is more than the local wildlife can say. I witnessed something shocking and foreign and rare. Although I’d never want anyone to see the tragic loss of an innocent life, there are few memories I can recall that have been so profound. The only perpetrator here is my own attitude.
As the challenges of transition begin to consume our lives, it might be wise to dig deep and see the positives. Perspective is everything. Take a step back and hopefully in moments of frustration or anxiety there will be an insightful flash of clarity. And if you’re lucky, there won’t be any throwing up or violence against animals involved at all.