I Killed a Chipmunk Today

Yes, I did. Very sad. It was unintentional, of course. I was driving on a road I’ve driven on a hundred times, a road where I’m often on the lookout for crossing deer, not chipmunks. There was a small dead animal already on the road by the white line on the right and my focus went to it, trying to identify what it was. The fated chipmunk shot out from the left and before I could react, I heard a thump and felt a small bump in the car, like driving over a small rock. As my heart leapt to my throat, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw the latest casualty of the intersection of man and nature, lying still, almost poetic.

I like to think that it was going to see its mate, the other victim by the side of the road, and that they are now together in an idyllic forest beyond the physical chasing each other with joy, searching for nuts, and cuddling in their shared home. Wishful thinking perhaps. Oh, how we like to anthropomorphize animals so we can try to understand them, and in some cases try to put our own mind at ease.

After the bump, the guilt I immediately felt was compounded by the fact that I knew I was somewhat distracted, not just by focusing on the other dead animal by the side of the road, but by being preoccupied by spinning thoughts, feeling like I was more in my head than physically grounded and driving. I thought that if I had just been more present, more fully immersed in the driving experience, I could have noticed the chipmunk earlier and swerved to avoid it. There have been times when I’ve gotten energetically hyperaware when driving, like my senses explode outwards and I’m in tune with the area I’m driving through, feeling and noticing things before I normally would when simply physically driving. That was not the case today, when I felt removed from that sense of oneness with my surroundings. I was going through the motions, but I wasn’t wholly there because my head was not in the game.

And a chipmunk died.

What have I learned from this? For one, be present. The world turns and accidents happen, but we can always be more present to both the smooth operating of our days as well as to the misfortunes, which we can learn from. Being present at least puts us in our optimal capacity for living in those moments, being fully engaged with our surroundings and ourselves. From that open space of awareness, we can know that we did, and are doing, our best for any given situation.

I killed a chipmunk today. I felt guilty, I mourned, and I learned. Life goes on, in life and in death.

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