Friday, December 05, 2008

Deer in the Headlights

An apt phrase comes to mind, "Deer in the Headlights". Suggested by musing reflection on Patricia, commenting in passing about the hazards of traveling to Cortez.

The deer abiding peacefully along roadsides give evidence that they have little respect for highway traffic, or any awareness of the potential mayhem it portends, for any unfortunate beast that blunders into the flow of traffic. Of course. we may not ever see those creatures who have been properly schooled, and keep their distance. Those who failed to learn are often enough seen at the roadside, searching for that most dangerous bit of browse -- or whatever it is that motivates them to gravitate toward roadside areas and crossings.

I pause to consider this phrase, and how aptly it characterizes one who suddenly realizes, too late, how very short the future may be. As the headlight beam so suddenly casts its shockingly bright light on the moment of looming crises, the unsuspecting creature raises his head in alarm. In that harsh glare of the moment, no time to react. Not enough warning. Yet, all indications of the impending doom were there beforehand, clearly evidenced, and in plain sight. All that was needed was some wisdom in just exercising a bit of foresight to avert certain disaster and destruction. Just a simple bit of action, at the proper moment, and all would have been well. Instead, all warning signs were overlooked or ignored. And we probably will get another messy roadkill. Yuck!

I was reflecting on my own circumstances the other day, in conversation with one who was discussing the implications of the church's official and practical stance toward same-sex marriage, and the perceived degree of antipathy toward that erstwhile practice. My thoughts were that I felt rather like the disposition that the Mormon prophet-warrior described in his troops, when he discerned that they realized that they were facing inevitable defeat and destruction. Mormon described the fighting men as being filled with remorse that they were defeated, sorrowful for their loss, but not repenting of the mistakes that brought them down. In other words, there was nothing productive or particularly of any benefit about such angst -- it came too late to do anything about it, except grit teeth and prepare for a very rude shock.

So it seems, in my case. I am only holding on to a dim hope that I might survive this lesson long enough to get a bit of practical use from it, before the speeding car slams me down.


pgk said...

Deer in the headlights, indeed. Very engaging, Jim, and helpful. Thank you for putting this up.

This a.m. I remembered I hadn't come back to finish a thought I started on one of your other posts about what I've learned from you.

I thought I'd offer five of those things today. Here they are:

1) Just because Jim Cobabe charges you like a bull, ready to give you a pounding for all the egregious errors of your ways, it doesn't mean he won't catch something of what you're shouting back at him and stop, mid-charge, to give it a second thought. You've taught me to stand ground, Jim, and see what happens, not just run away (or block you from commenting).

2) Just because sometimes Jim Cobabe charges you like a bull doesn't mean he isn't patient and won't give you the benefit of the doubt -- if you deserve it. You've taught me to seek to earn the benefit of that doubt.

3) Jim Cobabe is a compelling testament to the different kinds of intelligences that inhabit the Creation. His intelligence is not like mine, yet somehow, we get across to each other and, here and there, meaningful events unfold like sudden flowers, causing me to gasp in surprise. That gives me moments of great hope, sometimes it imparts joy, but always it inspires gratitude. Your intelligence has shown me that life is deeper and wider than I had imagined, if not necessarily as long as I might assume.

4) The better part of what causes Jim to charge like a bull is the same thing that gives him some courage to face his own mortal crisis. This has taught me that a person's impulse to charge you like a bull has a positive flipside and that I ought to watch for it.

5) Jim Cobabe has confirmed to me what John Donne says, that no man is an island, and that what happens to any man, by virtue of the energy of his life, exerts influence upon my life. By one means or another, we are never as alone as we might think we are, but are touched on all sides by the lives of others.

"Who touched me?" asked Jesus, feeling a powerbump. Peter said, "Master, the multitude throng thee and press then, and sayest thou, Who touched me?" But Jesus insisted, "Somebody touched me."

A charging bull helped me, in my poor way, learn to pay attention and feel the pull from another direction and turn to face it.

Thus we see that all things do indeed testify of God.

What kind of a name is "Cobabe" anyway?

pgk said...

I mean, is "Cobabe" Scandinavian or something other?

Jim Cobabe said...


Of course, it's my dad's name.

The "Cobabe" name traces back to old Prussia, a region that is now a part of Germany, and has also been incorporated into Poland for a time in history. The origins of the name are lost in antiquity. Various theories are spun by various relatives, but for all practical purposes, nobody knows what the family name means or exactly the origin.

It's just a name.

pgk said...

It's a cool name.

I don't mean to bother you, but do you pronounce it CO-babe or co-BABE?

Or some other way altogether?

pgk said...

How are you doing today?

I stopped by earlier and saw you had a blank post page up. I was hoping it didn't mean you felt blank or empty. I was going to comment on it but when I came back just now, it was gone.

Over the last four days we've hit a bump as my special needs daughter skidded into a bit of a rough patch, but today has been quiet. It's always nice when the hard work lets up for a bit.

I've discovered that there's a mule deer doe who lingers in our neighborhood until rather late in the morning. Two days ago I met up with her as I headed to a trailhead near my house. She was walking parallel to me about 400 ft. out, across a field, headed in the same direction I was. This morning at 8:30, I spotted her a pasture away, standing in a neighbor's big back lot, watching me pass.

The deer are spread thickly this year and appear to be in very good condition, fat, with smooth coats and a laxness about their behavior, even this soon after hunting season. A big buck crossed the road in front of us the other day when my husband and I were out on a drive (such beautiful country we have here). The buck took his time, stepping smartly as we approached, then broke into a half-hearted trot as we came up on him. He shuffled off to the side of the road then turned nervously to look at us, but as we didn't stop or otherwise call too much attention to ourselves, he stood and watched us pass, flicking an ear. It was broad daylight. Best look at a big buck I've ever had.

Jim Cobabe said...


First syllable.

Not feeling so hot today. Your stories are always good.


pgk said...

Sorry to hear that, Jim. Rest up, which I know in your case amounts to hard work, but maybe it will help a little. I'll keep you in my prayers.

Also, I'll see if I can rustle up more short-short stories.

pgk said...

Hey, Jim. I just got up (late night with daughter) and I came straight here. Wanted to let you know you were the whole subject of my prayer this a.m.

I see you haven't let my comment from last night through. Maybe that means you're feeling pretty poorly. I hope you're able to feel that these comments are here even if you aren't able to get to your computer.

Do you like snakes? I have good snake stories, but I won't tell them to you unless you have at least a passing interest in snakes.

If not snakes, I have hummingbird stories.

I'm going out on my walk in a few minutes to see what shows itself to me. If something interesting happens, which it often does, I tell you.

pgk said...

I know. I'll tell you my eagle stories. Over the last two years, I've had some special encounters with golden eagles. I've never told anybody those stories. They're sacred to me because they involve matters like eye contact and flight, two areas in which eagles hold considerable superiority over my own abilities.

I'll be back soon. Hope you feel better at some point today.

Also, while I'm out, more prayer. I'm going to my cliff hangouts, where I'll be open to the sky.

pgk said...

Hah, called your mom. She gave me the goods on you. Here's fair warning I'm coming in closer, so if you don't want me to, say so.

Your mom wants your blogsite address. You decide.

I'm breaking this comment up because a lot happened on the walk.

Field Notes #12 (I'm guessing the number here, they're scattered all over the place).

As I walk along the dead-end road I live on, heading toward the canyon rim, I notice the airspace around the few houses bristling with birds: starlings, ravens, turtledoves (a recent transplant here). A kestrel flies low across the road directly in front of me. The kestrals haven't been as shy recently, letting me in a bit closer instead of fleeing if I get within 50 or 75 feet. A kestral -- maybe this one -- landed on our back porch last week, eight feet out from the kitchen window. It looked back at the window, maybe seeing its reflection, maybe hearing me shush the kids as we crowded into the view space to admire it. The bird bobbed its head in the way lizards do, the glittering of its black eyes suggesting sharpness. Much about it suggested razor sharpness. After gracing us with a minute and a half or maybe two of viewing time, it flapped off.

When I arrive at the cliff, I see a herd of deer browsing the sage flat around the first large cottonwood grove located south of my perch. I'm guessing it's the same herd of about 12 deer I've witnessed ransack the canyon before looking for anything edible. A few of them head up canyon toward me -- nope, they turned back, following some signal from a leader who has bent his or her -- probably her -- mind in another direction.

I see something black in the willow stand next to the creek below me. Probably one of the angus crosses ranchers around here prize so highly.

Right now, the wind is light, skipping up from the south-east. Sun glints off ice on the beaver ponds where the beavers have tied the stream off into plump sausage links. Sausages stuffed with water and water plants. There's ice on the creek below, but maybe 1500 ft. downstream I can see sunlight prickling on riffles.

Yep, cows are working their way up slope across canyon. Noisy things, rattling rocks as they clamber.

I hear ravens approaching, cawing as they come. Soon they swing into view, a pair, playing follow-the-leader along the cliff faces. Occasionally they break off that game to start another. They intertwine in a double helix of upward spiralling flight, caw-caw-cawing, one loudly, one softly in response. Their shadows skim over the rocks and their calls bounce off canyon walls. The larger, louder bird's echoes break down into a funny, goosey "honk" at the end.

Distantly, I hear other ravens. Those seem to participate from afar in this conversation 500 ft. away from me. The pair eddies in against the canyon wall, devoting considerable time to the airspace around a dryfall where I suspect they've found an interesting bit of updraft.

They've moved in close, now. I might see a show, as I've witnessed two other times recently.

They rise into the air above me, flying too near the sun for me to follow, but I hear a sound I recognize -- the thrumming "whuuush" noise the strip of wind makes when the wings of a diving raven split it in two. Many birds make use of a fundamental phrase of flight -- the dive -- to slow their descent (the original airbrakes) and to conserve energy, but eagles and ravens dive in this fashion for other reasons, sheer play being one of them.

What they do is fold their wings in close to their bodies and hunch their "shoulders" toward their heads, throwing as much weight as possible toward the front of their bodies. Then they drop head first like stones or football penalty flags for a second or two -- eagles sometimes drop longer -- and suddenly flare their wings, swinging themselves up out of freefall. When they flare their wings, that produces the humming "whuuush" noise.

They leave, I think drawn west by distant cawing.

(to be continued...)

Jim Cobabe said...


Thanks for the story. Feeling a bit better today. Yesterday was bad.

I don't think my mom and dad are much in to blogging, but I'll let her know how to read our blogs. She has been there before. Probably just doesn't remember how to find it. A bunch of links to family blogs on the Cobabe web pages.

Your stories about wanders in the canyon are entertaining. That kind of activity is a bit out of reach for me right now, but your tales make me a bit envious. I'll have to live those experiences vicariously for now.

Thanks for sharing.

Your kindness and interest are overwhelming. I am and will be indebted for your time.

Can't thank you enough.

pgk said...

(...continued from earlier...)

Two cows work their ways down a talus slope toward the rest of the herd, clunking all the way.

The sun slips from its sheath of high, icy clouds and the temperature cranks up. Suddenly, a gust of wind tangles in branches of the baby pinyon pine growing out of the rock beside me. It heralds a rising wind that finds voice in branches of the pinyon pines and junipers on the knoll behind me.

The wind strips the warmth away. Time to move.

I move to my lower perch, an outcrop of blocky sandstone in a side canyon formed by rim rain runoff and by a spring, which throws itself off a 20 foot drop behind me, chuckling in that way falling water does. Here, I'm sheltered from the wind. The air is still and warm, even the pockmarked sandstone I'm sitting is surrendering its block-ice chill.

On the way down, I discovered that an OHVer has defied the ordinance closing this canyon to off-road traffic and driven his ATV down the trail, which environmental groups complain is itself an illegality.

Somehow, this spot is more brightly lit than the upper cliff, something about the angle of the sun here. The sun buffs up the Rocky Mountain Junipers' pale blue berries, endowing the trees with a Chrismassy look, those glowing berries in pale, bristly evergreen. Many trees on the mesa top are well along in the business of dropping their berries, coloring their own shadows blue. I haven't noticed, but maybe they're a different kind of juniper. Maybe the Utah junipers drop their berries sooner. I haven't thought to compare. On these trees, the berries still cling tightly.

Absolutely gorgeous down here today, much warmer than the higher point 100-150 feet above and around the bend. The air is fragrant, the warm light stirring up wood oils. Time to time, I hear the sparkle of a small bird's twittering in the folds of forest along the spring's bank cut.

Across canyon, a canyon wren tosses its call down a rock face.

So nice here, but I'm hungry. Time to go home.

On the way back, I come across the kestral sitting on a power wire. It plays that strange game some birds do where they leapfrog down a line, keeping just ahead of you. The mountain blue birds that stop around here in the spring and fall especially like doing this, following you by staying slightly ahead. The kestral flies and lights three times then decides it's had enough and flies over the neighbor's orchard, scattering flocks of panicked starlings. I catch sight of an eagle up high but can't make out which kind it is, golden or bald. Because of their white heads and tails, the bald eagles sometimes look headless and tailless, flying against a backdrop of glare-streaked sky. This bird's silhouette is intact; I guess it's a golden eagle. I hear voices and glance over to see who it is, and when I look back into the sky I have to search for the eagle. Doing so, I realize that the sun is wreathed in a corona, having slipped back into its gauzy sheath of clouds.

I spot the eagle again. Usually, I'm very careful what meaning I assign to events, especially encounters with other species. But just for fun, I decide to take the appearance of this eagle as an omen it is all right to tell you my eagle stories.

pgk said...

Overwhelming? I'll give you some time to become less whelmed before calling back.

And you're not in my debt. No talk about debt, please. There's a fair give-and-take going on here that perhaps you can't see.

When my special needs daughter was born, my family was thrown into terrible trouble. We barely survived. We were at sea with no map and no instruments to guide us. Like I said, brain injury rehab is work of an epic nature. Hardly anybody understands epic anymore, that helping people in such trouble takes more than a few casseroles and "Thinking of You" cards. And yes, it takes more than adding a name to the temple prayer roll.

That was 16 years ago. Both our pediatrician and our pediatric neurologist said things like they didn't believe physical therapy helped. (The opposite turned out to be true.) We had to find our own way through completely uncharted waters, and the isolation of our situation added to the weight we carried.

I'm trying to learn to do here, with you, what I wish somebody had been able to do for us--to stand ground, give what can be spared, keep company during dark hours, help do the deep work, not make things worse, find the right words. You're being incredibly patient with me, Brother Cobabe; I appreciate that, it steepens my learning curve.

Stuff like this takes work, and work takes time. That's just how it is.

Jim Cobabe said...


The kestrel is a beautiful and fascinating falcon to watch, it has such unique ideosyncratic habits. Especially interesting is their hover. Few birds can park themselves stationary in mid-flight. Kestrels hover like this when stalking, then stoop over their prey from on the wing. During the summer, I see kestrels prey mostly on big grasshoppers. The hover over the unsuspecting bugs, then catch them as they go to take off.

I've never seen them this time of year. They don't overwinter around here. Too cold, I guess, nothing much around here to eat.

Lots of bald eagles overwinter in the area, but they are mostly scavengers, living off roadkill. It doesn't seem very appetizing to me -- but I suppose makes for a fine meal.

pgk said...


Unlike those of you inhabiting the nether regions of Sanpete Co., we're still having bright days approaching 55 degrees in temperature. Except for today, which is rainy, dark, and cold, which conditions must be what yesterday's corona around the sun betokened.

We still have grasshoppers hopping ... well, not exactly grass. Frost-killed weeds is more like it. The hoppers aren't in great shape, but they're still kickin'. We had an especially abundant crop this year. I've never seen so many grasshoppers or so many different kinds. It's like the heavy winter snows we had last winter created them from the local soils.

We have so many different kinds of raptors here I can't keep up with them all. I know we have redtails and Swainson's hawks, ferruginous hawks, others I can't identify because I can't get close enough to them to take notes.

When I lived in Utah Valley, I saw kestrels (thanks for correcting my spelling) hovering over the median strips dividing I-15, especially from Spanish Fork southward.

Bald eagles aren't very sociable. Once they spot me, which they do right quick, they won't come anywhere near. The golden eagles are a different story.

It will take me a while to pull all my eagle stories together because they're scattered through hiking journals covering the last two years.

In the meantime, I'll keep sharing my walks with you.

Rhonda said...

Hey, Jim,
Regarding the meaning of our family name:

I like our cousin George's explanation best of all. The name comes from the German words "kopf ab," literally, "head off." This, along with the fact that the Cobabe/Kobabe family crest includes an ax, might lead one to believe an ancestor of ours was an executioner.


pgk said...

Hm, that could explain a few things.