To me, deer are the ballerinas among four-legged mammals. Whether they’re standing and staring, or sailing over a fence, they epitomize elegance and grace.
If we had the garden we constantly talk about planting, our view of deer might change dramatically. Their determination to eat every plant in sight has turned them into unwelcome beasts for neighbors who grow flowers, vegetables and fruit.
But we don’t have a garden (yet).
Last summer, a small doe took up residence under our porch. Our farmhouse is built on a slight slope, and the porch, which wraps around the front, is about four-and-a-half-feet off the ground – the right height for a small doe, if she keeps her head down when she enters or exits.
By mid-July, the summer sun had scorched area hillsides, burning every last green shoot of anything a brittle, dusty brown. But our porch offered a cool haven. This doe made that haven hers. She’d lie on the smooth earth, shaded from the sun and protected from predators, and watch us come and go.
Driving up our hill, I’d look to see if she was under the porch, her long neck, large eyes and ears focused on the sound of my car. If I frightened her, she’d leap up--keeping her head down--bolt out from under the porch and bound down the hill.
One afternoon, I was sorting through boxes of old manuscripts and other papers on the porch, oblivious that the doe was under there. But I accidentally dropped a box and out she bolted in a rush of silent power, muscles rippling as she flew down the hill.
A few minutes later, I saw her beautiful face peaking over the edge of the hill, looking at me. I sat as still as possible, watching her watching me. What would she do?
We must have stared at each other for a good 10 minutes. She was all eyes and large, inquisitive ears. And then she made her decision. Keeping her dark brown eyes on me in an almost "I dare you to protest" kind of look, she slowly walked up the hill, across our little front yard, lowered her head and went back under the porch.
I was thrilled and astonished.
We saw her under our porch almost every day for the rest of the summer. Then she was gone.
I’m sure she became lunch or dinner to someone else in the food chain. We have the entire eat-and-be-eaten parade here, from the smallest of insects to hefty mountain lions. Not to mention humans with hunting rifles.
But for one summer, we felt like we were living in a magical kingdom, blessed by the silent presence of that beautiful doe.
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