Observation

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As evening approached, something nudged me to look out the window. Sure enough, there in the misty field, a deer foraged. Grabbing my camera, I tiptoed outside, easing the door open and then closed.  

I rounded the corner stealthily, but as I had sensed its presence, so it sensed mine. It raised its head. Our eyes locked. We both stood still. My hands froze around my camera, stopping its ascent.

Time seemed to stop and swell, to ripen, as we stared at each other. I felt the weight of the camera in my hands, the hard ridged plastic of the telephoto lens against my motionless fingers. The catbirds sang back and forth in the nearby trees, and a woodpecker drummed. From far away, I heard the faint whine of a lawnmower. Still, we held each other’s eyes.

A minute passed.

Then another.

Finally, one of the deer’s ears twitched. It took a big step backward, easing out of the thicket of shrubs. I held my breath, remaining still, my camera clenched by my side. Motionless.

DSC_1032.jpgThe deer suddenly exhaled a loud warning “Huff!”, turned and bounded across the field, its white flag of a tail flying high. I quickly raised my camera and snapped a few pictures, expecting it to disappear into the trees. Instead, to my surprise, it stopped at the edge of the field, turned and looked back at me. I froze, camera raised to my eye, as it stared at me.DSC_1035 (1).jpg

After a long minute, I retreated around the corner of the house. Perhaps if I left, I thought, the deer might return to peacefully eat the shrubs. I stood for a moment or two on the front deck, then carefully peeked around the corner. The deer was still standing there, silently staring in my direction.

Once again, our eyes met.

As I backed away slowly, I wondered just who was observing whom.

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Pause

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This April, Renee LaTulippe of No Water River is hosting a wonderful month of poet visits and writing prompts. I’ve been lurking mainly, but a prompt from Margarita Engle caught my eye. She asked poets to write about making a choice, either simple or complex. Here’s one I made recently on the way home from work.

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Pause

Driving home last night
I chose to pause
to pull over on the berm
then sit and watch as
four slender deer
foraged in the misty fields
while cars whizzed by
buffeting me with their wake

Last night
I chose to linger
while deer peacefully grazed
stepping through
tendrils of languid fog
that drifted and twined about them
concealing
revealing
as the world rushed by
and dusk descended.

© 2018 M. Hogan

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Deer Hunting

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI got home from school and really did not want to run. I was frazzled and fried and wanted nothing more than to crash on the couch and stare at a wall for an hour or two. Preferably with a glass of Cabernet in my hand. However, I also felt the need to run some of the stress of the day out of my system, and I knew I needed to establish my new afternoon running routine. So, aware of sunset’s early arrival, after dragging my feet for a moment (or two or three), off I went.

The light was already starting to dim and infuse with that evening glow when I headed out. That quality of light always reminds me of deer hunting, and as I ran, my thoughts time-traveled back decades to childhood visits with my grandparents in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. At least once or twice during our frequent stays, my grandmother would suggest, “Let’s go deer hunting tonight!” When the shadows lengthened and daylight began to fade, we’d all pile into the big station wagon, and Ganny would head out to drive the local winding roads. Whenever we approached a likely field, she’d slow down. Our bodies would twist and turn as we peered around each other and through the windows, eager to spot the first deer.

“Do you see anything?”

“Is that one over there?”

“Oh! Look! Look! Over there! What’s that?”

My brother, Jamie, usually spotted them first. “There’s one!”

We’d all look where he pointed, straining to see. Then, as if by magic, their shapes would slowly emerge from the dim light. Long legs, flickering tails, small spotted pelts.

“Oh, there are three of them! Right by the trees!”

“No, there’s another. That’s four!”

“Do you see the babies?!”

My grandmother would put her blinker on and pull further over to the side of the road, and we’d watch and count while evening pooled about us. Sometimes the deer stopped grazing and looked at us. Sometimes they’d take flight, a sudden whirl of long legs and white tail banners. Sometimes more deer would emerge from the shadowed trees to join them in the fields. After watching for a while, we’d head on to the next likely spot and repeat the process. On a good evening we’d spot dozens of deer.

When we finally arrived back at the house, we’d jump out of the car and race each other inside, trying to be first to get to the study to announce the evening’s deer count to my grandfather.

As I ran, late on this beautiful fall afternoon, I lingered in those treasured memories of my grandparents and those cocooned car moments with my family– remembering the excitement, the camaraderie and the simple joy of that time. Lost in these memories, I ran around a bend.  As the road opened up before me, I saw, by the side of the road, a large deer.  “Oh…” the soft sound escaped my lips and my feet slowed. The deer turned its head toward me, standing still, its large ears cupped forward. Our eyes met. A second passed.  And then another. Then, with a swift movement, the deer turned and raced across the road, bounding over the second lane with a graceful leap and a flash of white tail.

I continued running along the road, hugging the moment to myself. Then a heartbeat later, another deer emerged from the woods, following in the first one’s path. My face burst into a huge grin. Another soft “Oh…” escaped. Then a third deer emerged. Followed quickly by a fourth. And finally a fifth. Each bounded across the road and disappeared into the woods.  Suddenly, while the grin was still wide on my face, my eyes filled with stinging tears, and a sob caught in my throat. It felt as though an arrow had pierced through time, linking together those Ligonier moments and this one, reconnecting me to the girl I was then, to my grandparents, to my family, to my childhood.  To long ago days when counting deer from within the warm confines of the car was a thrill. I felt the blessing and the loss simultaneously. I continued running, deeply moved, and the passage of the years and the chaos of the day faded temporarily into insignificance.

Wiping a tear from my cheek, I whispered aloud, to no one in particular, “Thank you.”