I had heard rumors of a family of deer living within or near my office compound (I don’t know what else to call it – there’s a gate, for goodness sake!). I have seen a mother-and-baby pair a couple times now, but it wasn’t until last night that I hit the ungulate mother lode, so to speak. Upon leaving the office at 6 o’clock last night, there were seven deer out past the parking lot! Seven! It was about half babies, half mamas.
I stood and watched as the babies romped and played, and the does fixed me with their watchful, interrogating gazes. I had stopped walking about halfway to my car to watch. Every time I said something quietly to myself, one of the mothers looked up at me. At one point, an especially exuberant fawn pranced away from the group toward the trees. The adults reacted quickly, pursuing the babe with great bursts of speed, surrounding and corralling it back toward the pack.
It occurred to me while watching this serene display how soft humans are. We’re so used to being at the top of the totem, we’re no longer aware of potential danger. Those deer watched me so closely, pausing every few seconds while chewing on grass or even mid-step to make sure I wasn’t coming any closer or pointing a double-barrel in their direction. They didn’t seem to get a moment’s peace while I was present. We, as humans, never have to be that alert. Even considering only man-made dangers, we are surrounded just like they are, but we’re almost totally unfazed. We’re considered poorly adjusted if we’re paranoid and on alert at all times. But maybe those people are just better attuned to their animal ancestors.
I’m not saying we should be constantly watchful and fearful. To that extent, animals (especially herbivorous prey) are unlucky. They have to spend every moment observing their surroundings for predators and other threats. It just makes me sad that we have so encroached on nature’s territory that we are among the threats. Those of us who wish to be the observers and lovers of nature are forced into the same category as those who wish to kill, frighten or force out nature. Maybe our awareness should come in the form of taking a closer look at our own actions and how they impact the world. We should tune in to what’s going on around us and what role we play in it all.
The other thing that occurred to me was the difference between the fawns and the does. That rift exemplified the ways in which we do have traits in common with animals. Those fawns frolicked without a care in the world, even as I took a few steps closer (still at least a hundred yards away), but their mothers couldn’t take their eyes off me. Even though humans aren’t watching the skies for swooping hawks or checking behind tree trunks for cougars, age brings the potential for acute awareness. Suddenly, we have worries and stresses and dilemmas. The same situation presented to a toddler has a totally different effect on a 30-something.
While I think we lack a good bit of the instinct and awareness that nature originally instilled in us, and we should explore ways to gain that back (if for no other reason than recognizing more about the world around us than we do right now), I think it’s even more important to embrace and encourage the fawn-frolicking while we can. I’ve already lost that ability, but I’m not sure I ever had it to begin with. I was alone and required to get it together from a very early age, which has bred paranoia and fearfulness, much like those does on the knoll. I was a bit envious watching the babies run and play – I don’t remember ever running and playing as a child (rec softball doesn’t count because I hated it). My days of running and playing are pretty much over, unless I’m given an opportunity to nurture youth again, through a pet or a child. But if I had that chance, I’d take full advantage.
It’s funny how seven deer on the other side of a parking lot can make a person rethink the way she lives her life. But I count myself fortunate for seeing them in the first place (well camouflaged) and taking a moment to stop and stare. I hope you all find a way to learn from nature in your day-to-day lives as well.