Board: Macro Economics
I have hardly posted at all for a while now, mostly because I have come to realize that I do not have anything interesting to say. The things that happen up here on the ridge seem fascinating to me, but when I contemplate mentioning them here, they seem pale in comparison with Russian tanks, electronic surveillance, Malaysian airplanes, and the like.
That said, I appreciate the emails. All is well, and I continue to look at this board regularly. And, in response to several requests, I do have one more interesting experience that I can share. At least I think it is interesting; possibly I am wrong about that . . . .
Interesting or not, it is most certainly off topic, which I guess is not a surprise.
And, possibly, it is instructive in a sort of indirect way. You can judge that for yourself.
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Have you ever seen a life or death effort -- that moment when everything hangs in the balance and nothing is held in reserve?
I have seen many things, but until recently I had never seen such a moment.
Once I was swept off of a boat in a gale, and honestly did not know if I would survive. I could not believe, could not even fathom, the chaos around me -- the hammering wind, drenching rain, zero visibility, and raging sea – but it was not a moment of supreme effort; there was nothing I could do except just try to stay alive and hope for an improbable rescue, so it was more a matter of doggedly resisting an overwhelming sense of depression and resignation . . . .
And it seems to me that most of our riskiest moments are sort of like that – statistical in nature, rather than dependent upon our efforts and capabilities. Even modern warfare is more a matter of statistics than effort.
Do athletic moments – the final sprint at the end of a race, or the quick burst of a running back – rise to this level? I do not think so – I think supreme athletic moments are a good imitation, but that there is something deep in our brains, something ancient, that is tapped when we face mortal peril.
For the first time in my life, I saw such an effort, and I will never forget it. And it did not even involve a person.
I was sitting on the wall I built a couple of years ago, sipping lemonade and watching dusk start to creep down the ridge toward the valley below. Daisy was hunting voles in the rocks below the cabin, and I could see my black dog Shadow about three hundred yards away, down at the end of the long, grassy meadow that runs from my cabin to the woods above the creek.
Like Daisy, Shadow is a rescue dog from Puerto Rico; unlike Daisy, who is distinctly earthbound, Shadow is built to run – she has a lot of whippet in her, with a ridiculously deep chest and long hind legs, and she loves to chase rabbits in the meadow.
Well, I was watching Shadow, and suddenly she froze, staring into the brush at the edge of the meadow. After a moment, there was a ripple in the high weeds and a coyote slowly walked out into the meadow.
You westerners out there think coyotes weigh about thirty-five pounds or so, right? And you are correct; that is what a reasonably large California or Texas coyote weighs. But out here in the eastern mountains the coyotes have a lot of timber wolf in them, and they weigh up to seventy pounds. This coyote probably tipped the scales at about sixty pounds, twice Shadow’s weight – a formidable customer indeed.
Anyway, I was watching with a great deal of alarm, and then I saw something that made my heart sink: two more coyotes came out into the meadow between Shadow and me – they had flanked her and cut off her escape.
I started shouting and running down the meadow, but it was hopeless.
Shadow looked back and saw the two coyotes, and then wheeled and started to run for home. The coyotes all broke into dead sprints, closing in at terrible speed. They had the angle on her, and things looked pretty dark.
One thing stands out in my memory – a strange fact that made the chase even more terrible: none of them made a sound; there was a grim agenda, and it left no room for wasted effort.
So the coyotes sprang the trap, and I ran helplessly, hopelessly – and then I saw something I could not believe.
Shadow ran for her life.
She flattened out, only inches above the ground; her feet moved so fast it seemed they never touched the ground. And how she ran!
No dodging, no swerving; she trusted her life to her speed, and the gods – and generations of whippet ancestors – smiled on her. She ran straight for the small gap between the two trapping coyotes; she ran so fast that the coyotes kept changing their angle of approach – they could not believe it any more than I could! She ran as if she had been touched by Hermes and Nike and somehow, unbelievably, she shot through the gap before the coyotes could close it.
She burst through the trap and roared up the meadow at impossible speed – the coyotes quickly abandoned the chase, but Shadow did not know that. In a long and adventurous life, I have never seen such focus and determination – and I have never seen such glorious speed. It was beautiful, and terrible, and somehow awe-inspiring.
She went blazing by me, braking in a long arc, and then trotted back and sat between my legs, panting. Soon she was inside on her bed, exhausted.
There is not really a point to this story – sometimes a story is just a story. But I do have a few ancillary thoughts.
First, unfortunately, I am going to have to kill a coyote or two; I hate doing that, but once they show an interest in our human world, it is a necessity. (E.g., pumas thrive in Colorado largely because the hunting season there teaches them to avoid the human world.)
Second, I am aware that these moments of maximum effort take place all the time in the animal kingdom – presumably the voles that Daisy hunts make similar heroic efforts – but rarely are they so visible and accompanied by a strong rooting interest.
Third, for some obscure reason (probably because one of Shadow’s nicknames is “Ghost in the Canyon), this story makes me think of a very obscure song:
Fourth, an idle thought -- are we missing something by never experiencing such moments? Most of us will never have one such moment in our entire lives.
(Of course, these moments come at a very high cost! That does not really address the question of whether anything is lost by their absence, however, it just makes it likely that the cost of such moments exceeds whatever positive aspects they might have.)
Finally, this incident has had a strange effect on me. It is easy, as one ages, to allow the accumulated losses and declines to weigh one down – to take away the joy of life and replace it with a sort of grim resignation. I know such emotions first-hand. But now, somehow, that attitude seems unconscionable – almost a betrayal of what we have been given. I think about Shadow’s great run for her life, and I am ashamed to take such a gift so lightly.
In a funny way, when my daughter rescued Shadow, maybe she rescued me as well. But, of course, I will never admit that.
A Drumlin Shadow