MORNING COFFEE 20 - whitetail

by Susan Weber

Last week I walked the block persistent snow had made into a wonderland. Colored lights festooned the eaves and porches of a windswept night. For some reason—well, I knew the reason—I saw a frozen steppe someplace vast and impenetrable where the citizenry had rallied their meager strength to claim one brief memory of how things were before the war. My war, our war, is cancer, my husband fighting battles so far beyond my ken I slept with his knit cap the first night home alone, crushing stitches in barren hands as bombs detonated around him.

There was one house that had fascinated me by day with its webbed sculptures poised by the rhododendron. A long neck reared in a show of peerless grace while the companion deers’ ears pitched skyward, nose exploring scent, uncannily aware of its surroundings. This night, electricity had transformed them. Interwoven stars blazed through torso and limb, neck and head and flickering tail. My husband’s love for the natural world and distant cosmos shone from two impossible galaxies of light. It wouldn’t have surprised me had the creatures pawed the snow, pushed their hooves against the hard earth, and bounded off in search of kinder worlds.

There’s been a change in our surroundings in the decade since our sons left home. Our back yard became the birthing ground for doe and fawn one spring as we watched from our kitchen window. Their intimate reunions, when the doe returned from foraging, beguiled us through the weeks. She licked her fawn's pelt clean of scent, hiding it from predators' keen faculties. Paths of trodden grass, decapitated tiger lilies, amber coats turning gray sure as summer leaves will turn to brown, all this is ordinary now. Nature has moved in, Santa and his curios no longer so unlikely. When whitetails appear around fences in the late afternoon and stop to watch us lug groceries from the hunched backs of noisy cars, it seems our rituals amaze but don’t surprise them anymore.

Wandering the frigid night my thoughts turned to galaxies within. My husband ever shoring up resources in trying times. How he laid down his telescope one day, content to trudge to work for years on end, his family's provider. Children growing to adulthood, miracles so rare we’d never have believed it had we not borne witness with our tear swept eyes.

Public domain photo by Ken Thomas