The end of the fall semester and the advent of the winter holidays make for busy weeks and more commitments and obligations than usual. This past week was typical of this end of the year pace. Each night grows colder, the darkness falling ever so sooner, and I long for a quiet evening with a book, next to the fireplace, a luxury of laziness that seems elusive.
One evening this week, Arden and I were heading home after dark from a meeting with her Odyssey of the Mind Club. The sun had set, but we’d been too busy to note if it was worth watching. All was a dark grey, quickly fading to black, save for the twinkling of Christmas lights in our neighborhood. I was in a hurry to get home, to get dinner on the table and over with so that I could tackle the stack of grading in my bag. My mind was racing with the tasks of the evening, looming late into the night. Arden was chattering away with excitement about her club’s activities, as she is challenged in such a meaningful way by her participation there. I was only half listening, trying to sort out my thoughts, and get us home.
I turned to head up the hill, nearly home, when at the same moment, Arden and I both noticed a trio of deer in and near the road. We came to a stop and watched them watch us for a moment. Then they turned back to the grasses they’d been nibbling. They hadn’t been startled by our vehicle, surprisingly, and carried on their evening activities as if we weren’t there at all. Silent, we watched as a young one with immature antlers led the others across the road. They sashayed as calmly as could be, flicked their tails and dipped their heads. Eventually, they wandered out of the scope of our headlights and we marveled at how long we’d watched them – which couldn’t have been more than a minute or two – yet it was such a pause in the constant motion of the rest of the week that it seemed stretched. Normally when we spy deer in the neighborhood, we’ve already spooked them and they bound away in a frantic dash to safety.
As brief as that fleeting moment was on Tuesday evening, it’s sustained me through this week of preparation for final exams, end-of-semester projects, and holiday events. All I have to do is breathe and recall those three deer, and I’m again removed from the frenetic parade of mid-December, the to-do list fading in the darkness beyond the halo of headlights, the world reduced to my daughter and me, and the deer outside with no other plan than seeking out tender blades before serenely moving on.