Sunday, December 6, 2015

Their Intimate Place In The Forest

I was walking through town with Kory a few days ago.
The day was raw and windy and (still sick with a head cold) I was not really in a mood to be wandering around in temperatures just below freezing.
But I was wandering because my dog wanted to wander.
We were only a few minutes from the house.
Walking down one of a handful of dirt alleyways that criss crossed through town, I was deep in thought.  Hunkered down against the wind.  
Thinking and not seeing anything around me.  
Aimlessly watching Kory as she eagerly examined the same drains, the same bushes, the same random tires and stacked bricks and fence posts that she always examines when we wander this way.
And then I looked up and saw them.
The herd of does and now almost grown fawns stood bundled close to each other, watching me and my dog closely, obviously wary of our sudden and unexpected presence.
Immediately the dampness and the wind was forgotten.
My low grade fever and runny nose and stuffy head was forgotten.
My deep thoughts and my aimless attention at my exploring dog were all instantly forgotten.
Suddenly I was in awe again, as I always am.
Completely enthralled with the sudden and unexpected presence of these beautiful, skittish and ever watchful creatures.......................
Pulling my puppy closer to me I locked in her leash.
Kory knew the drill because we had done this same routine many many times over the two years that we had known each other.
We would see the deer.  We would stop.  I would pull her closer to me.  We would continue walking, only much quieter, more controlled, less aggressively, trying hard not to scare the deer away from us.
And so we walked.  
More slowly.  
More quietly.  
One slow step at a time - Kory paying them no attention, and me completely enthralled with them................
With each step closer to the herd I fully expected them to turn and run away from us.
Eventually they would.
That was my experience over these past couple of years with them.
Eventually we would get too close and they would turn and run................
For five minutes I walked and stopped, walked and stopped, walked and stopped, slowly but surely closing the distance between us and them.
Finally, one of the younger deer could stand it now longer.
Obviously uncomfortable, she moved away from the edge of the herd, ran across the field, circled behind Kory and I, and continued running until I lost sight of her when she disappeared alongside a small home on the main road of town.
I watched her unmoving until she disappeared from sight, and then turned my attention back to the herd, fully expecting them to follow her.
They didn't.................
The does and the almost fully grown fawns.
I had watched these fawns grow all through the spring and summer.
I had watched them from the time that they were spotted and bouncing babies dancing around their mommas.
I felt as though I knew them
Briefly I wondered where the injured doe was.
The one with the injured front leg.
The one who had been trying valiantly for months to keep going long enough until her two babies were old enough to make it on their own
I searched the herd, inspected their front legs, watched the way each doe stood, didn't see her...................
Still moving slowly towards the herd I was surprised that they were still standing clustered together.
I was surprised that they had not followed the one young fawn.
Was surprised that they had not turned as one, and sprung across the field away from us....................
And then suddenly it all made sense
The buck appeared from the far side of the building and headed towards his herd.
I had not seen this boy in months.
The last time I had seen him was early in the summer when he was easily and quietly traveling through town with two other bucks.
He was the biggest of the three, and back then I remember thinking that come fall these three would not not be so friendly with each other.
That eventually they would be battling for dominance and breeding rights.
As predicted, the largest of the three males had won the battle.
Slowly and very sure of himself the buck wandered over to the does, and then turned to stare at me and Kory, and he was beautiful.......................
For a long time the buck and his herd stood clustered together, alternating watching me and glancing in the direction of the fawn who had disappeared behind a home.
It was obvious that this herd (that had been traveling in and around town all summer in ones, twos and threes but who had now finally banded together for the coming fall and winter) wanted the fawn back.
I stayed in one place and continued to slowly snap pictures.
Occasionally I glanced down at Kory to see what she was doing, and she was more interested in random rocks and bushes around her than she was was the deer.
I was glad.
She had been bluff charged by two females with growing babies through the summer, it had scared her, and she no longer seemed to have interest in the deer.
Glancing warily back at the buck I watched him closely.
It was the rut.  I was greatly enjoying the sight of him, but was not taking him for granted.
I was astonished at how close I was to the herd.
I was astonished that they had allowed me to get so close, but it was fall and the routine that I was so used to through the spring and summer was done.
Every one of these deer (both males and females) had something else on their mind....................
The almost grown fawn couldn't stand it.
She had thought that once she ran, the others would follow.
They didn't, and a few minutes after she disappeared behind the home, she reappeared and rejoined the herd.........................
Once the lone escapee had rejoined the herd the buck began to do what he was there to do.
He had an entire harem of females at his disposal, and I watched for a few minutes as he eagerly wandered from one female to another to another, before finally turning and continuing on my walk with my dog.
Smiling at this unexpected interaction, I looked down at my pup again.
Smiling at Kory I watched her as she investigated a very interesting sage bush.................
The next day Kory and I ran into the herd again.
As they slowly grazed their way across a field I watched them for a few minutes.
At the back of the herd, working hard to stay with the rest, was a doe with two almost grown fawns.
She was limping.
But she was there.......................

Your growing antlers,' Bambi continued, 'are proof of your intimate place in the forest, for of all the things that live and grow only the trees and the deer shed their foliage each year and replace it more strongly, more magnificently, in the spring. Each year the trees grow larger and put on more leaves. And so you too increase in size and wear a larger, stronger crown..........Felix Salten, Bambi's Children

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