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

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Deer at dusk

As it was getting dark, I looked up from whatever important thing I was doing - perhaps a crossword, tackling someone else's words as a reward for making it through another day of my own - to see two deer on the lawn. They were grazing, and shortly a third joined them. I watched from the big windows in front.

The wind had been strong enough during the last storm to keep the yard clear of snow at the edge of the bank. I immediately thought that the deer must be desperate for food to go for the brown stuff that passes for lawn these days (and most days, I must admit, even in summer), and so much in the open besides, just 30 feet away. The rest of their world is still covered with snow, and by late March they must have reaped all of the Spanish moss and cedar bows within miles. But they looked healthy, and of course elegant, and I probably was reading too much into their apparent bravado. Or maybe my mossy grass was a bit of dessert.

Then I thought of agriculture, as if I were raising deer like cows in a field, and they would nuzzle my hands after feeding if I slowly and carefully went down to them. (Quite a field - just a few feet from the ocean, like a taste of a saltwater farm.) It's true that deer in these rural parts are at least partly domesticated, if by that we mean they tolerate humans to a degree for the bounty of our ornamental shrubs and flowers. I think it was their calmness that made me think of them as tame and friendly. They would look up and twitch their ears every ten or fifteen seconds, especially when I moved from one window to another, as if they couldn't quite figure out what that flickering shadow in the big grey tree was up to, but my general impression was that they were unafraid.

After 10 minutes or so, they wandered over into our neighbor's yard. They continued to feed quietly, and only one of them looked up at the airplane, prop-driven, noisy, lights like probes, roarng in just above. The other two kept right on nibbling.

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