While driving across the western half of Wisconsin earlier this week, a Department of Transportation sign caught my attention: Over 19,000 deer were killed on Wisconsin roads last year. Yikes. That’s an average of 52 deer per day. Extrapolating from the number of carcasses I swerved around on I-94, I think that 19,000-figure may be low.
What’s the proper speed to avoid striking deer while driving in the middle of the night on a two-lane road? I don’t know the answer to that question. But returning to Iowa in the middle of the night, through Rochester, Minnesota, my wife and I spotted dozens of live deer near the roadside. That didn’t include all the roadkill. The speed limit signs felt too fast. But I wasn’t about to go slower and miss an entire night’s sleep. For a stretch, I braked at the sight of every reflector in the distance, certain it was the eye of a deer. Oh, the beauty of dawn.
What’s the proper speed for going through life? I don’t have an answer to that one either. I used to be able to take roller coasters. No more. Age messes with the gyroscope inside us. I took some satisfaction to learn recently that our two kids, now both in their early 30s, also find roller coaster rides incompatible with their equilibrium. A big change from high school.
Speed dating? It didn’t exist when I was in the dating game. But, a clever concept. Speed dialing? I don’t know where I’d be without it, though it creates a lot of “pocket dials” that I end up having to apologize for. Speed texting? With one mostly dysfunctional thumb, I don’t use the word speed there. Speed reading? I think I do pretty well. Woody Allen is my mentor. Perhaps you heard of his boast after completing a speed reading course? “I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace in 20 minutes. It’s about Russia.”
I do know that windshield wipers are never fast enough. I’m also certain that life goes by way too fast.
So, here’s a prayer for you and me on this day, June 16, the day the first roller coaster in America opened on Coney Island. By the way, its top speed was six miles per hour.
Dear Lord, slow me down. Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind. Steady my hurried pace with a glimpse of the eternal reach of time. Give me, amid the tension and confusion of this day, the calmness of the nearby hills and the soothing music of a singing stream. Slow me down, Lord, for it’s hard to take in the goodness of other people when speed is our everything. Amen.