The car’s headlights illuminate them in small groups, nestled up against the house, huddled close together for warmth, or yarding up in the garden, deep circles on matted snow with leaves and sticks and summer’s leftovers, latent evidence of their resting spots.
One morning, from our half-moon window on the second floor, I saw several resting alongside the sleeping prairie garden. At first, they looked like boulders set up against the background of snowy grasses. Then, from my bird’s-eye view, movement. An ear twitched, then a head uplifted. One, then the other, arose and stared up at the window, one stomping her leg in a primal code, warning the others. So acute are deers’ senses that they were keenly aware of my presence at the bedroom window. Suddenly, nine deer materialized, leaping from corners and caverns and crevices known only to them, as they leapt to wherever their safe harbor was.
I watched again, mid-afternoon, from the livingroom window as the herding family leaped effortlessly over mounds of snow bordering the road, then down the paths they have paved, across our lawn and into the barren lot next door. There, on the border between lands, two yearlings nibbled on decomposed leaves, unearthed from the depths of snow, while another, a doe already heavy with child, scattered snow like a cat in a litter box, rooting for something to eat.
In between the pages of my book and baking a loaf of banana bread, I noticed flashing tails, darting and leaping and head bowing, and knew there was a stag nearby, looking for his lady – and there he was, near the neighbor’s pines, searching for a winter mate.