The deer don’t come around anymore. I used to see them every night. They’d cross our downward stretch of driveway after poaching from my neighbors garden, or nibbling the pears and apples lining the hill. We’ve been adversaries, the deer and I, garden foes, and still I slow my car as I inch down our long winding drive, wanting them to feel safe.
The problem is, they’ve mistaken my raised beds for an all-you-can-eat salad bar. They’ve acquired a taste for spinach, beans, broccoli, strawberries, raspberries and even delicate pink roses. All quite satisifying, then washed down with a cool drink from the pond, like a fine vintage port.
I move morning mediation to the garden in summer. The deer sense me and leave the space alone, but on days I don’t go down, I’ll glance from the window to see them stomping my vegetables – as welcome as a workman’s muddy boots on a just mopped floor. I went screaming from the house last August, as naked as noon, to spook them out of my carrots. Get out! Get Out! I yelled waving a crimson cloth. The neighbor rushed out to see who had been murdered or was about to be.
My office window faces birdfeeders, ferns and towering maples. It’s patrolled by Hannah, the neighbor’s lab, and is not the usual path for the deer. But one misty morning, I looked up from my writing to see a large gentle creature standing just beyond. Our eyes met. Everything else fell away. Our vision locked. We studied each other for a long time. In that moment, I had a realization of the abundance in my cupboards and refrigerator, and a glimpse of what it must mean to forage for dinner, searching, finding or doing without. By the time the deer walked on, I had surrendered my strawberry pots, wondering if perhaps they’d like whipping cream served on the side.
That has all changed now. They’ve moved beyond our ten acre wood. It was evening – I’m sure of that, but the rest I hardly know, because the main road is away from our house, blocking noise, squealing tires and the sounds of shattering glass. A young deer lay dead in the morning, bloody and torn, already buzzing with flies. The highway department promised to come, but it was Sunday, and a holiday followed. The deer lay near the road full of decay and emptiness far too long. The rest of the herd knew. They felt it and distanced themselves. And so they are gone. No more deer in my driveway, leaping over the hill, or rummaging my garden – and you know what? I’ll be darned if I don’t miss them like crazy.