Lili the Rorschach


This morning’s walk through the woods was a harbinger of Fall: cool, blustery, intermittently overcast, with a forecast of rain. I put on a waterproof, fawn-colored riding jacket, and off we set. At the midway point of the trail through the woods, I heard my least favorite sound: gunshots, very close. I happen to know that deer hunting season is weeks off, so neither Lili nor I were wearing our day-glow safety vests. In fact, obscured by the leafy trees, we might have been mistaken for a wolf and a deer. Spurred on by fear, not to mention the intrusion of [let’s just hope] hunters jumping the gun, we picked up the pace and headed for the relative safety [because of our higher visibility] of the playing fields. But just as we approached the turn off, we heard police sirens near the school, and decided to stay on the lower-viz, wooded path. By the time we reached the paved road that leads back to where the car was parked, both the gunshots and the sirens had stopped, so we relaxed the pace to a brisk, dog-show trot.

When we reached the car, it was blocked by two county utility vans. “Oh, swell!” I thought. “Having dodged bullets in the woods, now we’re going to get hassled on the open road.” The driver of one truck rolled down his window and asked, “Where’d you get that dog?” “In Virginia,” I said with a smile [projecting my best not-your-victim-not-your-enemy subtext]. “I’ve never seen anything like it! What’s ‘he’ weigh?” Going into my Lili-is-not-your-enemy mode, I said, “She’s a girl, and she only weighs 71 pounds, under all that fur. Soaking wet, she looks like a greyhound.”

To which he replied, “It looks like a bat! Never seen anything like it! Have a nice day!”

And the point of this little vignette? Scary is in the eyes [and ears] of the beholder [listener]. Unless I hear on the news about a gun battle in my local woods [which is not unprecedented], my amygdalar arousal was as much of a false alarm as was the initial reaction of our new friend, “Bat man.”

But I think we’ll start wearing those safety vests again, in any case.

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Filed under attribution theory, limbic system, semiotics

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