Saturday, October 1, 2011

Making Tracks

Deer appear as if they’ve floated in, like cottonwood seeds. How do such creatures with hooves move so silently? These are not the horses for whom your mother demonstrated her love by mounting and riding them for hours on end. They do not whinny or gallop or become spooked by mere treacherous terrain. They arrive without fanfare, minding their business; and when they are startled, they bound into thickets where lumbering horses could not tread, leaving no trace.

You crack open your door and see one. It’s looking at you, its bay-leaf ears cupped in your direction, judging distance. Take a few steps and it might bolt, and you don’t want that. Rare is the yard, you think, that welcomes deer. So you carefully lower yourself each step down to the walkway, then skirt the yard. You're going to get your day timer from your car. The deer continue grazing, affirming your behavior as non-threatening.

At your car you look back to the yard and see that others have joined the first. A small one with spots has taken the lead into the yard. The medium sized one you saw first is just behind it. The third is bigger still, but does not have antlers. So perhaps the buck is remaining concealed somewhere, watching the others to make sure they are grazing safely.

You retrace your deferential path, still hoping not to startle them. There is not just the distance from yourself to the one. Now there is your distance to the other three, and also their own spacing to each other. They’ve triangulated in your yard, staked boundaries like a surveying crew. It’s nature’s turf, a new order descended without a sound.

Back in your house, you shut the door as quietly as you can and describe the incident to a housemate. Later he goes out and returns to say they had gone, returning your yard to its usual boundaries agreed upon by owner and city.

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