Driving away from a dawn photo session by a local river, I looked over my left shoulder. The sun was just rising, and color streaked the sky. I pulled over to the berm to pause and once again admire the evolving view. It really was lovely.
Just one more picture, I thought.
I grabbed my camera, jumped out of the car, and walked across the road. The power lines were in the way, so I moved a bit further away to avoid them. I crouched down, angled this way and that, and took a few photos.
The sound barely registered as I focused on capturing the golden rays and the reflection on the river.
Crackle! Snap! SNAP!
Huh? What was that?
SNAP! SCRATCH! SNAP! SNAP!
I turned to look, as simultaneously my neurons fired in nervous anticipation of the answer.
I knew it before I even saw it. Dread trickled down my spine.
Intent on my photo op, I must have left the car in drive.
Sure enough, my car had already rolled down the road away from me. It had now begun a descent into the side growth, crushing bushes and twigs in its path. Even as I looked, my mouth agape, it continued on its path …
Finally, it stopped.
I kept running until I reached it.
I looked at the slant of the car. At the wet, wet ground below it from the 3 inches of rain we’d had the day before. At the tree that had stopped its full descent. At the morass of weedy swamp in front of the tree.
I assessed for about one second. Then, I jumped in, put it into reverse and praying, stepped slowly but firmly on the gas.
SCRAPE! SNAP! Crack! SC-R-A-P-E!
Scrape! Crunch! Crackle! Crack!
Slowly but surely my trusty little Subaru extricated itself from the pit of my stupidity.
In a moment I was back safely on the side of the road. The sun was still casting lovely rays. My heart was beating madly and my hands were gripping the steering wheel. This time I put the car firmly in park.
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” I whispered over and over and over again, interspersed with “Oh, my God!” “Oh, my God!” “Oh, my God!”
After I’d settled down a bit, I took a breath and slowly steered back onto the road. I drove home shaking the entire way, imagining all the what ifs from bad to worse: What if it had been stuck? What if it had been damaged? Or totaled? What if it had gone the other direction and into the river? What if it had hit another car? What if it had injured someone?
“Oh, my God! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
I felt unbelievably stupid and unbelievably lucky.