Doe in the Woods
Sometimes our blog posts and newsletters elicit feedback that includes stories and personal experiences that readers felt compelled to share. We wanted to share one such story sent to us by Diana Powers in response to our recent blog, Schooled by a Stag. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Thank you to everyone who has reached out. It really makes a difference to us.
By Diana Powers
I arose to a day filled with warm spring sunlight and birdsong so powerful that even the cacophonous chugging of some huge payloader cannot squelch it. I’m up late today so I know the winged ones have been at it for a while. They are as pleased as I am that winter has gone and we no longer have to bunch together and puff out our feathers to stay warm. I am thankful for the birds, uplifted by their presence. I work hard in this square of suburbia to welcome all the creatures who are fast becoming the latest races of homeless.
The deer are the most amazing or at least the most obvious as they adapt. They who once owned the woodlands so we had to go there to see them, have moved in with us as we remove their woods. I am tickled but saddened too that they need to frequent my poor substitute for a real home in order to simply feed themselves.
There are others, too. Last year a rabbit appeared in the front yard and apparently decided this was a good place to call home. I saw him many times over the summer. The raccoons and squirrels of course remain—they are my tenured professors. I like to think they are all here because they know they are welcome and safe.
All this makes my gardening quite a challenge, but I love the fauna as much as the flora, so I try to care for both. Winter servings of aging fruit were a big hit with all the creatures. Looking out my bedroom window one late evening to see the doe and her two yearlings munching their fruit cocktail out of the snow was a sight I will long carry with me. An hour later, they were gone and Rocky (the Chief of the raccoon tribe) arrived to clean up the leftovers.
A few nights ago, as I arrived home late, the three deer stood across my little private road as if they had been waiting for me. When I got out of the car and crossed the front yard, the yearlings retreated to the safety of my neighbor’s evergreens, but their mom never moved. She just stood and watched me. I took a step into the street and paused to see what she would do. Some fifteen feet separated us and I stood motionless, certain that she was an instant away from flight. Instead, she took one tentative step in my direction and that one simple movement mesmerized me. The questions raced through my head: “Does this mean she trusts me? Can she sense I am not a threat? Is she curious enough to come closer?”
While my mind stayed in overdrive, I kept my body still and watched as she continued, one slow, deliberate step at a time. Step-pause… step-pause… step-pause… until she was almost within my reach. We looked into each other’s eyes as we stood there, an odd still life in the middle of the night, so close that I could have touched her. I was stunned by her beauty, grace, and courage. In that freeze-frame, what we exchanged was palpable magic. I said hello, told her how beautiful she was and that she was always welcome at my home. My voice did not startle her at all. She appeared to be listening. I reminded her to watch out for cars. As I heard myself issue that warning, I realized that if one of my neighbors came home just then, they could easily run down the crazy lady or the deer, so I told her we’d better get out of the street. She calmly turned and slowly headed back to her young who had curiously watched our exchange from a safe distance. When she got to them, she paused and looked back at me for a brief moment, a last look, then led them deeper into the pines.
I can’t convey the wonder of this moment, but that’s as it should be. Often a moment is so startling and joyful, our instinctive reaction is to share it. In the next instant we know that, if we share it, we will somehow diminish it forever. But I write it here, a hedge against the forgetting that could take this astounding moment from me just as my father’s forgetting is stealing his moments every day.
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