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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Monday, July 20, 2009

Still life

On Saturday morning I was walking the dog on Canns Beach Road when I saw a small brown heap in the grass just a foot or so from the road. It looked organic and I moved closer. Mia showed no interest.

It was a fawn, clearly dead. Its shape was compact, legs bent, hooves tucked in, as if its mother had nudged it into a kind of burial. I guess it was still-born. But why was it here out in the open, practically in someone's lawn? It was still there in the afternoon, but gone by Sunday morning's walk.

I read later that in the first days of life, mothers often leave fawns for a while to go off to feed, and the fawns lie completely still as a defense mechanism. They have no smell and predators miss them, as Mia did. For a brief moment, I had a surge of hope. Maybe it was still living, maybe the mother had no choice but to give birth right there, and then the fawn, in those clearly hostile circumstances of grass and tar and cars and humans, lay low for a day. There was absolutely no trace of it on Sunday, no crows or coyotes or picked-over bones. Had it defied all odds?

No, no good to hope. The body when I saw it had nothing of life in it. It was almost bluish - it must have had some congenital disorder that killed it on birth, something dramatic that didn't allow the mother the privacy of the woods. Maybe it's better that way, better than an insidious cancer that lurks for years, is born in a blood test, a biopsy, torments the body for months, even years, then inevitably wins.

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