September 22, 2013, 5:22 a.m. (Camera date and time.)
I must have written about this before, but cannot find the blog post if I did.
I know I wished the light had been better. (That's the first bit of sunrise
glowing from the left, and the dance was over by then.) Some of the deer
have already returned to the forest beyond. These three are browsing
slowly in that direction and in a minute or two will disappear into the wood.
This dance took place eight days after my birthday in 2013. I had just
turned 78 years old. I was up early and may have come downstairs to take
some pictures of the dawn. On the west side of the house, six deer were dancing
in a circle. Honestly! Some of the young ones jumped about, and did some
playful head-butting. The dance went on for a long time. I almost held my breath
and was very careful not to make any noise.
Most of the pictures I had to take through the windowscreen since the dance
was taking place in the West Meadow of our home in Emmet County, Michigan.
Later, I found a reference to a scientific paper on this sort of group-play
that deer have been observed to do, but it was on a scientific site I did not have access to.
I could tell from the abstract that this behavior had been observed and studied.
In less than two months, I will observe my 80th birthday; it's a little scary.
And this was one of the very most unexpected and interesting things I have ever seen!
Knee-deep in the ferns springing up at the edge of the whistling swamp, I watch the owl with its satisfied, heart-shaped face as it flies over the water-- back and forth-- as it flutters down like a hellish moth wherever the reeds twitch-- whenever, in the muddy cover, some little life sighs before it slides into moonlight and becomes a shadow. In the distance, awful and infallible, the old swamp belches. Of course It stabs my heart whenever something cries out like a teardrop. But isn't it wonderful, What is happening in the branches of the pines: the owl's young, dressed in snowflakes, are starting to fatten-- they beat their muscular wings, they dream of flying for another million years over the water, over the ferns, over the world's roughage as it bleeds and deepens.
House of Light; poems by Mary Oliver,
Beacon, 1990, pages 46-47.