If you move too quickly, or are preoccupied and unobservant, you might not notice them.
But make no mistake: They’ll still see you.
These graceful, golden tan creatures with sinewy haunches lurk everywhere in the woods surrounding the small north-central Minnesota lake resort where my family and I were lucky enough to spend a few days last week, even as the chaotic swirl of our current lives continued spinning around us.
The numerous deer we encountered didn’t care that we had deadlines to meet, urgent financial matters to address, work to finish or exams to take. Their utter disregard for our human circumstances made it easier to mentally step away from our cares during intermittent walks down isolated, narrow roads.
Canopies of leafy branches shielded us from piercing sunbeams and cut the thick humidity into more tolerable slices of breathable air. We slowed and quieted our footsteps, visually hunting for glimpses of the four-legged wonders.
These deer have neatly mastered the art of acquiring food, water and companionship among decaying logs and fern-carpeted ground cover. Procreation is not a problem, judging by the quantity of spotted fawns and yearlings we witnessed following their parents’ lead. A scenic clearing where wild raspberries — dots of red among summer’s prolific green — flourished was a favorite haunt for obvious reasons.
One hoofed animal let me creep closer than I had imagined a deer would allow a human to be without startling. We stared at each other — she with her brown doe eyes and velvety hide, me with my corrective lenses and pale flesh. It was a lock for what seemed like, and may have been, minutes.
Time paused and my mind was a nature-saturated blank as I drank in the beauty of the living animal standing scant feet from the ground where my sandals were planted.
We’ve been physically separated from many friends and family over the past several pandemic-filled months, and that separation has sometimes been painful. Added to this unlooked-for distancing is a pending move that will take us further from people who have become close to us over the past quarter-century — people we depend on for laughs, comfort, helping hands, combined efforts and emotional support.
I want to lock eyes with each of those precious people until time stands still, to spend luxurious minutes appreciating the inner and outer qualities that make them valuable in my sight, to tell them how beautiful I find them even though we don’t necessarily resemble each other, to revel in the silent union that reveals our true connections.
Too soon the deer decided to move on, maybe to seek out her mate and offspring en route to a familiar watering hole and patch of ripe berries. My reverie was broken and I emerged from the woods to once again face the human concerns that awaited.
These deer aren’t wearing masks — but then again, they’ve never obeyed the “no shirt, no shoes, no service” signs (which originated in response to barefoot ’60s hippies) when leaping through plate-glass windows of businesses or unlucky homeowners. We’ve adapted to that clear-cut business expectation, so why not to a temporary one that may save lives and help solve a major health crisis?
It’s apparent deer care for their own and consider the needs of those around them. Last week I watched bucks nudge their does, and does gently guide their fawns, considering all they communicated with their eyes and motions.
Follow their unselfish example to express care for your fellow humans. Do it, if not for the deer, than for your dear friends.