Sunday, May 30, 2010

qui vive



: alert, lookout

I went through a strange phase as a child during which I was really fascinated by the ways in which deer always seem to be on the QUI VIVE. Deer sightings were a fairly regular occurrence in my Connecticut back yard. We lived close to what was usually referred to as "the water company," which translates to, in real-person terminology, the land surrounding the reservoir. This piece of land was dense with forest and wildlife, much of it spilling into our backyard.

Sometimes I would spot a deer just hanging out in my yard. If it wasn't looking in my direction, I would slowly, quietly, discreetly approach, attempting to get as close as I could without scaring it away. Of course, their hearing is amazingly acute; the deer would usually raise its head, quickly jerk its neck back and forth to spot the approaching enemy of an eleven-year-old girl, and hop off into the thicket (I'm sorry—when else am I going to be able to say "thicket") while I was probably still twenty feet away.

I'm not sure why, but I envied this ability, this quick reaction time. Perhaps I thought this to be a keen defense mechanism. I had a pretty low opinion of myself—being the dense, naive, hardly quick-witted creature that I was in those pre-teen years. I envied the attentiveness of the deer, the sheer animalism of that instinctual self-protection.

I actually remember trying to be more alert, to jerk my head around like an animal when I heard foreign sounds. I wonder how this must have appeared to my classmates. (I don't really wonder how it appeared to my family; odd behavior slipped under the radar. They would have been more concerned had I started wearing B.U.M Equipment sweatshirts.) I never stopped to think that what is threatening to a deer—the crunching of a twig, the rustling of a bush—is not that threatening to human beings.

What I should have been on the QUI VIVE for was not sounds but ideas, concepts, theories. I mean, I guess that matters little to an eleven-year-old, but it would have been more relevant than jolting in my seat when a pencil rolled off someone's desk onto the tile floor.

I'm not sure from what I felt the need to protect myself. Life? Growing up? Any form of human relationship? I write this list laughing, realizing I'm still trying to protect myself from the same elements. Although, I have since given up my deer-like QUI VIVE. Instead I have just attempted to construct a solid fortress around myself. And I must appear just as foolish as a sixth-grader pretending she has the extra-sensory perception of a forest creature.

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