Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Things are pretty silent in the woods these days, at least in the park where I walk. It’s deer hunting season, so the guns are blasting away most everywhere else, including the wooded areas near my house. I always seem to see a lot more deer in the park this time of year. I wonder if they know it’s a place of refuge, and make their way in from the unprotected areas nearby. Of course, it’s just past mating season, too, so they’re out and about because of that. There’s been enough cold weather to kill off the underbrush, and that makes them more visible as well.
Whatever the reason, I never fail to see a dozen or more of them most mornings, and this week I’ve been seeing a big buck that I’m sure I’ve never seen before. He has a huge rack of antlers, 16 points maybe, and he’s very assertive. Always stands his ground and gives me the look as I walk by. He usually has his girlfriend with him. I’ve no idea how long deer couples stay together after they do their thing, but an awful lot of the other adults still seem to be paired off, too. There are also little groups of young deer that feed together, and if I just stand quietly they’ll often come very close to me, snuffling under the fallen leaves for acorns and other goodies.
I’m always struck by the way big herbivores--whether they’re deer, cows or horses—seem to give off a very different energy from predators. I’m not sure I can explain what I mean by that, but if I think of it in terms of sound, the energy of a deer is low and throbbing, like a slow heartbeat; with a cat or a coyote, it’s a clear, high, tense tone, like the open E on a violin. That quality—energy or aura, whatever you want to call it—pertains regardless of the state of the animal. Deer can be nervous as hell, cats can be eerily still, but still the predator gives off a tension the herbivore doesn’t. It’s not that one is more pleasurable to experience than the other, just that they’re very distinct. I think one of the reasons we are so attached to certain companion animals is the pleasure we get from being near their particular vibration. It’s one of the many ways we have of manipulating our environment.
I’ve loved being near the energy of all those deer during this time when the woods are at rest for the winter. Some days I am lucky enough to have some time when I’m completely alone with them, with no other people around, no voices or traffic sounds carrying up to me. There’s just a blessed stillness, and that heartbeat.
Photo from Wikimedia commons