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Wild Things

The coronavirus seems to have made more opportunities for wildlife to live in town, at least here in Columbia. Last year traffic in town was so light! My dogs and I could cross Broadway at almost any time of day without waiting at all. Last spring, to my complete delight, I started seeing red foxes in the neighborhood. I cannot begin to say how thrilled I’ve been to see them from time to time. And sometimes in the wee hours, they are out in the middle of the street barking. I recorded them one night. It’s a sound like no other.

We have barred owls nesting nearby and red-tailed hawks, too. The owls are especially fun to hear, calling out, “Who? Who? Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” I often think I hear one right outside my bedroom window.

And the deer seemed to multiply in town last year. It became almost an everyday occurrence to see one or two or a family of deer in and around our yard. One doe in particular had a bad leg and was very thin. But it was the fawns, in their speckled coats, that stole our hearts. We often saw a family of two adults and two fawns out beyond the dog yard, sometimes lying peacefully or foraging for food, and quite often out in the street, bounding across to travel through the yards. Yes, they ate my beautiful lilies but I haven’t minded that much. I just love seeing them. My dogs had long ago given up barking at them and the deer were unimpressed by them, as well.

Yesterday morning took a bad turn, though. My dogs and I were returning from a short walk across Broadway, where we’ve also seen the deer family. A police car was stopped with lights flashing, right where we were about to walk. Then I saw that one of the fawns was lying in the grass there. The other one, across the street. Both yearlings had been hit by a car or cars. When? In the night or early morning? But both? How?

I had a rough morning. I told a few of the neighbors who also walk in that direction, so they would not have to see what I had seen. As much as we’ve loved seeing them in the neighborhood, we’ve worried for their safety. Our town has encroached on their wild area and while it’s been lovely for us to have them right in the neighborhood, it’s clearly not the best arrangement for them. So we need to be extra vigilant. They are here and we have a responsibility to keep them as safe as we can.

“The Fawn” by Mary Oliver

“Sunday morning and mellow as precious metal
The church bells rang, but I went
To the woods instead.

A fawn, too new
For fear, rose from the grass
And stood with its spots blazing,
And knowing no way but words,
No trick but music,
I sang to him.

He listened.
His small hooves struck the grass.
Oh what is holiness?

The fawn came closer,
Walked to my hands, to my knees.

I did not touch him.
I only sang, and when the doe came back
Calling out to him dolefully
And he turned and followed her into the trees,
Still I sang,
Not knowing how to end such a joyful text,

Until far off the bells once more tipped and tumbled
And rang through the morning, announcing
The going forth of the blessed.”

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. And if you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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