Saturday, August 15, 2009

To the Research Station (encore)

It is mid-afternoon an the nature preserve. A young buck with fuzzy lopsided antlers strolls delicately across the small sun-drenched meadow, steps over the old broken-bouldered boundary wall, sidles right up to the side of the cabin and stands directly in front of the window where I am working; he stares in for a few moments, then lowers himself down for a bit of a nap. There is a rather bald spot there, an ovoid of dirt that suddenly seems the right size for this buck, as if he dozes here frequently when no one's about. I am gazing straight at the back top of his head. His antlers, one approaching the normal two-prong shape, the other much smaller, perhaps deformed (or growing more slowly?), rest outside the window where a window box might be. If no screen was in the way, I could reach down and touch him, as I would a large dog (a thick waisted Great Dane, perhaps) curled up near my feet while I type. As it is, I sit dumbstruck. His antlers are thickly forested with hairs standing straight out, like a boy's growing-in buzz cut. Flies dodge and dart about, landing on his moist muzzle, circling his wet eyes. His ears, mapped with pulsating blood vessels, flicker this way and that, his nostrils flare to chatise the flies. Flies, some of them still wriggling, are caught amongst the bristly-looking hairs of his antlers. His side bellows quickly, then slows down; variegated brown and grey hair lies flat along his side and flank close against the cabin wall. I imagine that the hair would feel smooth, slick, a bit wiry like a pony's under my hand. Warm.

I breathe slowly, I move ever so slowly, I stare, I want him to stay near me for a long time, I want him to actually sleep here, close, as if I am his friend, I want so much for him to trust me. But my chair clanks as I shift my feet to ease a growing numbness and he starts up in a flash, rump and tail toward me, tense, about to bound off. He cranes his head back to look at me over his flanks, ears cranked forward like semaphores, staring right at me, eye-to-eye. Beautiful eyes, yes. Dark. Rich. Large. Alert. I want to hold his gaze forever; I want him to calm down and return to his spot, rest in my presence, relax; I want him to trust me again. He turns his head forward, stands motionless, barely breathing. Then in two bounds and a leap, he's over the patio, over the boundary wall and crashing off through the high, dry grass and brush, making no end of an infernal racket.

Why do I care so much whether this beast trusts me, stays close? What is this yearning to be comfortable with beasts? Is it the challenge of convincing a wild thing that we mean no harm? Is the idea that we can communicate between species? I don't really know, but I am surprised by the strength of my feeling, of my desire for this deer to remain close and comfortable near me. It's not only deer; on other days, I sit still to let a thrush or a towhee or a chipmunk go about its business, hoping it will come close or at least not rush off in alarm. I do not want them for a pet, lord knows I do enough care-taking as it is; I don't want to "keep" them; I just want to know them ... or rather, I want them to know me.


Noise makers!