A strange, busy week it’s been, spiced by interesting visits, some physical, others mental, maybe even a tad esoteric.
We’ll begin with a light little deer caper anyone can get their head around — an unusual encounter that, due to its rarity, will not be soon forgotten — then see if there’s room for anything else. My wildlife encounter occurred on a splendid Monday morning, one of two such bright, crisp fall-like days bookending a gray Tuesday, the day of a visit by the man who’s been pursuing me for some time. Persistent, we finally connected for a couple of hours, he frustratingly attempting to push me into places I wouldn’t venture before — hail patience, perseverance and a dash of luck, not to mention dogged determination — he finally brought me to a place I agreed to go. Though circuitous, I think we arrived where he wanted to go, that is with me reciting a reading he may splice into a musical CD he’s recording with a theme of activism and protest. Whew! Was I happy to get that behind me. And here I sit in this familiar Wednesday station, trying to say what I have to say in one narrow column on one tidy newspaper page, seldom easy.
Monday morning, sunny, cool, the tall clock’s minute hand ticking toward 10:30 as I secure a brace to my balky left knee. I’ve been reading published correspondence (“Distant Neighbors”) between poet/writers and counterculture spokesmen Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder as my dogs await backyard breakfast followed by a daily meadow romp. The selected literary correspondence between these two brilliant American thinkers who view the world through different lenses with much common ground is gripping, at times even tingling, thus my La-Z-Boy “procrastination” by the sunny window, much to Lily and Chubby’s dismay. They’re eager to eat and tour enticing acreage without restraint. Well, I guess it’s always there if needed, but I’m a freedom and liberty man, not the law and order type.
When we finally arrive at upper hayfields, a dense mix of clover and timothy the dogs enjoy exploring, they run in ecstasy, searching for places where deer have eaten and left behind shiny black pellets that for some reason they eat and, when so inclined, roll in with carnal glee. Why they seek deer scat for dessert I’ll never know, but in my mind, they wouldn’t eat it if there was no nutritional value. Call it my faith in animal instinct and Mother Nature. I guess no one has ever instilled in the dogs the idea that scat is gross and filthy and disgusting. All they have is their nose and instinct, which pulls their heads to the turf. Who am I to question this?
We reach the back corner of a one-acre parcel known to the Nims family as Hideaway and the dogs are all jacked up by scent passing through thick, verdant clover bedding between Christmas trees. As we approach the thorny path through a slim treeline between meadows, Chubby, on a mission from Satan, disappears into the wooded escarpment lip overlooking a narrow swamp bordering Sunken Meadow. I never worry about Chubby, or Lily for that matter, running off, so I just let him do his thing as I walk my trodden trail. But this day, when I get through to the other field and can’t hear him rustling through the swamp below, I give a whistle — no sign — buzz his collar — not a glimpse — and whistle again before, last resort, sending a low-level shock, which soon brings him back winded from an aggressive chase.
“Hmmmm?” I ponder. “Turkeys?”
We continue on, reach a gate, walk the gradient into Sunken Meadow and, on a whim, I choose the opposite direction we typically walk around the perimeter, just a spontaneous little change of pace. We pass the barren riverside apple tree and follow the swamp toward a beaver pond when Chub-Chub breaks through the brush into the mucky tangles, a typical move to which I pay no attention until I get some 100 yards away and realize there’s no sign of him. I call, figuring he’s near, then whistle, then call again in a louder voice, but still no Chubby. Thinking, “Uh-oh, maybe he’s picked up where he left off on that previous chase,” I buzz him — no sign — whistle without results and give him another electric tickle that soon produces a flash of white headed my way. I first think it’s Chubby but am surprised to see a fawn hightailing to a collision course with me. The little creature runs up to within 20 feet of me and 10 feet of Lily, standing with a friendly wag, and the little deer stops, stares briefly and flees. I hear something approaching, glance right, and here comes the mom, bright white flag bobbing, Chubby in playful pursuit, giving that pathetic yip I often hear when his mom goes inside their dog house and won’t let him in. He wanted to play, would have undoubtedly licked that deer affectionately had she permitted.
The small doe finally turns and takes a playful run at Chubby, who circles playfully away as the deer switches direction and takes three or four bounds right at Lily and me. She freezes and looks me in the face, probably looking for her fawn, but seemingly without fear of us, displaying the countenance of a pet approaching for affection. I speak to her in a soothing voice, saying, “It’s OK, Baby, we won’t hurt you.” She flexes her ears forward, cocks her head this way and that, as though trying to understand my words, before Chubby arrives and she flees down the trail left by her little skipper.
What a sight to behold, a moment in nature that sticks with you. Those deer and others that live there know me, my truck, my dogs, my voice and whistle, and typically skirt us year around without incident. This day was different. We must have caught them out feeding late in the clover and Chubby just couldn’t resist chasing hot scent. I was the beneficiary.
Ooops! That’s it. No time to delve deeper into Berry/Snyder or the musician’s home visit. But let me leave you with this poignant exchange from Wednesday morning:
Stirring in bed and ready to rise as my wife passed on her way to an early medical appointment, she stopped briefly to say, “Honey, can you imagine that four years ago today we were at the auction.”
That’s code for the night 28-year-old son Gary was stricken with an aortic dissection that required surgery he did not survive. More recently, just this past April, younger brother Rynie suffered the same fate, dying a day before his 29th birthday. So, yes, it’s been a difficult time for us, last week’s column hitting the street on the first anniversary of Rynie’s surgery.
“That happened on Sept. 17?” I responded, speaking of Gary’s dissection. What I really wanted to say was, “Please, Joey, give it up. Danger lurks when you look in the rearview and take your eyes off the road ahead.” I believe that and try to live it.
But that’s enough. Back to Berry and Snyder, a Heartland Christian and a San Francisco Buddhist in heady discussions, me soaking it up in the comforts of a brown La-Z-Boy by a bright, sunny window that locks me into the present, hoping for better days ahead.