deer tidings

white-tailed yearling by Greg Thompson

Once upon a time I was as curious as the yearling above, and in possession of a keen sense of wonder. The mysteries of nature and spirit were intertwined in my young mind. One early wordless memory I have is of lying on the cold winter ground in the woods and eyeing a little princess pine peeking through the snow. I was astonished at the connection I felt to the small precious life, and how thrilled I was to be aware of its presence!

My parents and grandparents were nature lovers, but from an early age I was locking horns with my scientifically minded father over the existence of the supernatural. It distressed me to no end that he refused to believe in anything that he could not measure in physical terms.

One afternoon when I was six years old I had a dazzling moment of transcendence when I encountered a stag, although I didn’t know enough to call it that when I later tried to tell my parents about it. As I was walking alone up the heavily wooded road from the school bus stop to my house, I strongly sensed that someone was watching me. When I turned around to look I was at first startled to see a huge stag with magnificent antlers. He was standing in the road, quietly staring at me, as if he recognized me, as if he knew exactly who I was. I was struck with awe. Completely enchanted, I was not at all frightened. In fact, I decided he was my guardian angel. A fatherly figure. Something about his presence was most reassuring. I never forgot him and have often felt his presence in my life, especially when spending time with my maternal grandfather in the years to come.

white-tailed buck at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Forty-five years later, a few years after my grandfather died, I had wonderful encounter with another deer. (Some of my readers may remember me sharing this in November 2008 on my Gaia blog.) I was visiting my father at his house in the woods, where spotting deer, coyotes, wild turkeys and fishers is not at all unusual. We were starting to watch a movie when my brother-in-law glanced out the window and noticed a doe in the yard, quite close to the house. Being so enchanted with deer I jumped at the chance to see one and went over to the window to look at her.

She was so beautiful with her large soft eyes and large ears lined in dark brown. Our eyes met and she stood there transfixed for a very long time. I could not take my eyes off of her. After a while she lay down and continued to stare at me, occasionally looking about to see what a noise might be, but then fixing her gaze back onto me. She seemed so peaceful and I wondered what, if anything, it all meant. It was as if I had lost my child’s sense of inner-knowing for a moment. Then I started to worry that my looking at her so intently might be threatening her in some way. But she was tranquil and serene. At one point a buck appeared and walked right past her and started helping himself to my father’s rhododendron. My brother-in-law was going to go shoo him away but I begged him not to. After the buck had enough to eat he slowly retraced his steps and passed by the doe again, glancing at her but unconcerned with her behavior. She ignored him completely, and kept looking at me.

white-tailed doe by Steve Hillebrand

After another long while she stood up and started nibbling at the ground, looking at me once in a while. She slowly made her way downhill around the corner of the house, so I changed my vantage point to another window on that side of the house. She was now one story below me. But she looked up to the window and saw me again and started looking at me again with the same intensity as before. Her look felt so reassuring in some way and yet I felt the thrill of butterflies in my stomach. It’s hard to put words to it. She definitely seemed to know me. It was getting darker and darker until I could barely see her, and just at the point where I felt I could see her no longer she suddenly darted away. More than an hour had passed. What an amazing gift! Even my father had to acknowledge this was an extraordinary experience.

I did finally understand the doe’s message with some help from my Reiki practitioner a few months later. I’m keeping it safe in my heart for now. I will never forget this special doe and had so often felt her guidance while caring for my father in his declining years, as well as my mother’s presence, very strongly, in my life. And it was after the doe visited the house that my father, the skeptical scientist, started reporting that he had been seeing my mother. Sometimes he would ask where she was because he was certain she had just left the room.

white-tailed doe by Greg Thompson

Fifty years after my first encounter with a deer, when I was fifty-six, my father died in his sleep in the early morning hours of September 19, 2013, under a full harvest moon. My sister called me to let me know he was gone so Tim and I left to drive up to Papa’s house to be with our family. As we reached the end of the hour-long drive, we turned onto the same road where I saw my first deer fifty years ago. In about the same spot on the road, standing quietly on the side, in the moonlight, was a lovely doe. Tim slowed the car down and she looked right into our car, into my eyes. My mother was letting me know that she had my father now. What a feeling of relief and release came over me.

Beverly and I have often noted in the months since Papa died that neither of us have felt the presence of either of our parents. But Larisa has felt her grandpa’s presence down in North Carolina. And we all see in her new baby daughter, Katie, a remarkable resemblance to him, especially in her facial expressions and the way she moves her long arms.

As I continue to mourn the loss of my father I feel like I’ve grown to a place where I can embrace being in the elder generation now, a contented crone with my fair share of hard-won wisdom to gently share with my children and grandchildren. It’s a feeling of strength, stepping into the place where my parents and my grandparents once stood.

junco-dec06
junco ~ image credit: mike at luminosity.allthepages.org

A couple of weeks I put out a couple of bird feeders and have enjoyed watching the birds who come to eat. My parents and grandparents were avid bird-watchers but I thought identifying birds was a tedious endeavor when I was a child. However, these past few days I’ve been amazed to discover that some of what they taught me got stored in my memory files. It seems like every time a new bird shows up a name pops into my head, so I look it up and find it to be correct! I’ve always loved and could identify chickadees, but when an unfamiliar bird showed up the other day and “junco” popped out of my mouth, well, I’ve fallen in love with another little one.

I almost posted the first parts of my deer story several times since I started this blog, but something kept holding me back. After I saw the doe the night my father died it became clear that the tale had not been finished. Yet something still kept making it seem like it wasn’t the time to share it. After spending three weeks with my darling new granddaughter, though, it feels like the whole picture has now been revealed.

White-Tailed Deer

birthday #99

1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Aunt Lil and her great-granddaughter, Ashleigh ~ 1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Thursday Tim & I briefly came out of our seclusion to attend my aunt’s 99th birthday party at the nursing home she moved into last August, a few weeks before my father died. It was heartwarming that so many of those who love her were able to take off of work or school to attend an afternoon party on a Thursday, so she wouldn’t be too tired to enjoy one later in the day.

1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
the collage Ashleigh made for the occasion ~ 1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Auntie’s doctor approved the celebration and gave her permission to have as much champagne, cheesecake and black raspberry ice cream as she desired.

1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
good job blowing out the candles on the birthday cheesecake ~ 1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

I had not visited Auntie at the nursing home since August because of the illnesses and deaths of my father and Tim’s brother. She looks better than I thought she might have and I was pleased and relieved to see that she is being well cared for. Hopefully we can visit more often now that the dust is beginning to settle around here.

1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Aunt Em and Aunt Lil entertained us with stories from their “hen party” days. When I was a child, my four aunts, Mary, Jean, Lil and Em, their cousin, Aunt Julia and her friend Stella, and my mother would gather at Aunt Em’s house when she lived in New Jersey. In January because most of their birthdays fell in that month. They would go into “the city” (New York) for the day and evening and leave us children with the fathers and uncles.

The fathers and uncles let us get away with all kinds of mischief. They’d be watching football on TV and drinking beer. One time one of the cousins tried to do a somersault over a chin-up bar and whacked his head on the ceiling in the process. Uncle Andy exclaimed, “Now that’s what I call using your head!” We laughed about that bit of irony for hours…

My Aunt Jean was the first of the gang to die, in 1986. She was my favorite aunt – we shared a birthday, a love of cats and children, the color purple (when I grew up blue became my favorite color), a lot of personality traits, and the A, RH-negative blood type. And now I’ve learned that she also shared my sensitivity to alcohol. It didn’t take much to get her tipsy and very sleepy. Aunt Em and Aunt Lil remembered one time when she fell asleep with her head on the table at a luncheon. And another time when she got home she climbed into the crib with her son and they eventually found her sleeping there.

1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Aunt Em and Aunt Lil ~ 1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Aunt Em took the train up here from Maryland – she usually drives, but not in the winter. If I live to be 86 I hope I will be as vivacious as she is! Aunt Em and Aunt Lil are the last surviving siblings of the eight children their parents had.

1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Chelsea and Aunt Lil ~ 1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Chelsea is the wonderful caregiver who worked full time for us for a year, until my father died, making it possible for Aunt Lil and my father to live at home. We all became very attached to her, especially Auntie.

1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
a quiet moment with my sister, Beverly ~ 1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

When it was time to go I got a big long hug from my Auntie and we both started crying and told each other, “I love you.” Beverly had explained to her about Toby’s untimely death and she seemed to understand what a rough time we’ve been having. She held hands with Tim for a moment.

What an emotional roller-coaster we’ve been on this past year…  Like my sister, I wish I had the resources to care for our aunt at home but I’m relieved to know she’s safe and well cared for. And I hope she will treasure happy memories of her 99th birthday party.

Grandmother Elm

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5.14.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Finally, some leaves have appeared on my tree! I think it is an elm tree.

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5.14.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

My grandparents had an elm tree on the northwest corner of their house lot. Its branches and leaves could almost be touched when looking out the window of the green bedroom, feeling like the leaf canopy of this elm in the above picture.

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5.14.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.
~ Hal Borland
(Countryman: A Summary of Belief)

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Zoë ~ 5.13.13
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flag flying outside our fish market today ~ 5.14.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Toby went into the hospital for cancer surgery five days ago, and will probably be staying there for another week or so. The day he went into the hospital I had to go up to my father’s house for a few days to help out with the ancient ones. Chelsea had some time off so my aunt Em from Maryland came up and she and I tried our best to fill Chelsea’s shoes! It’s good to be back home now and slip into a more “normal” routine again, at least for a little while.

Up at my dad’s it was so quiet without Bernie around, but I was able to get outside for a short walk and take a few pictures. Later, while sitting on the porch watching birds with Dad, I experimented with the telescopic lens and got a fairly decent picture of a nuthatch (below), if a little blurry! But next time I think I will use the sports setting with the auto-shoot feature. It worked so well today with the flag picture this morning (above), which was whipping in the wind.  Enjoy!

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a nuthatch ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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pansies for Bernie ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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branch shadows playing with the roots of my hemlock tree ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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trillium ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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garden steps ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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primrose ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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life and death on a maple leaf, spider eating a lady bug ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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garden whimsy ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Marsh Light Manor

10.12.12 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
Marsh Light Manor at Lookout Hollow created by Lori & Edward Lenz ~ 10.12.12 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut

Luka built this manor house for his wife Inza and their family of light fareies at the base of this tree from the river rocks and marsh grasses. He created porches and windows to view and capture the light as it dances across the water. Mirrors and magic help Luka and his wife to “bottle” the light. Each of the children take turns delivering a month of special light to the plein-air artists who capture its distinct glow in paint.
~ Wee Faerie Village: Land of Picture Making

Now that some of the excitement has passed by, at least for us, I hope to share a few more fairy house posts in the coming days…

Auntie was transferred to a rehab center last week, a day or two after the storm. She’s able to walk a little and is making some progress in physical therapy there. We finally got up to see her yesterday and were grateful to know that she had some visitors in the hospital and at the rehab center.

Dad is on antibiotics now for bronchitis and we stopped by to see him, too, and showed him our storm pictures on the TV screen. He was somewhat impressed, but decided that the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 he survived when he 16 was far more destructive. He wasn’t feeling too well, but it was good to visit with him anyway.

We are overflowing with gratefulness for the gift of a wonderful young woman named Chelsea, who was hired to help out with Dad and Auntie’s care in September. What an awesome blessing she has been to our family! She has sat with Auntie in the hospital and at the rehab center, and darted back and forth between those places and the house, to give attention to both of the ancient ones. She has been a cheerful, hard-working, kind, calming and pleasant presence to have around and has gotten us through this difficult stretch, even coming in the evening and on the weekends. Thank you so much, Chelsea!!!

Green Is King Factory

10.12.12 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
The Green Is King Factory created by Tammi & Sean Flynn ~ 10.12.12 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut

The Moss family loves everything green. Kelly and Hunter and their children Willow and Sage own the Green Is King Factory. They turn their precious blue and yellow finds into, you guessed it, green. It’s hard to keep up with the demand. Artists use a lot of green! From the gentle yellow-green buds of spring to the deep shades of the forest, the Moss family can have an artist’s favorite green within 24 hours (and yes, express delivery is available).
~ Wee Faerie Village: Land of Picture Making

10.12.12 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.12.12 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut

So, the wondrous fairies have a factory in their village, too! Did you notice the cog railway for bringing the yellow down to the factory?

10.12.12 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.12.12 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut

What a blessing our in-home caregiver, Chelsea, has turned out to be! She spent Monday in the hospital keeping Auntie company. Thank you so much, Chelsea! You are truly a godsend!

On a somber note, I received some sad news yesterday, my cousin Matt called to let me know that his mother, my Aunt Betty, died unexpectedly Friday evening. She had enjoyed her last day of life, taking a wonderful long walk with her husband, my Uncle Dave, and seemed fine. But after dinner she collapsed and the paramedics were summoned – she was 80 years old. Matt and I talked for over an hour on the phone, shedding a few tears and sending hugs back and forth, sharing what happy memories came into our minds. Tim & I had sent her some organic roses in May for her 80th birthday and she told us their fragrance reminded her of romantic rose gardens from the past on Cape Cod. Aunt Betty was a woman of strong faith, a lovely, gracious, lady.

If I were to walk this way
Hand in hand with Grief,
I should mark that maple-spray
Coming into leaf.
I should note how the old burrs
Rot upon the ground.
Yes, though Grief should know me hers
While the world goes round,
It could not in truth be said
This was lost on me:
A rock-maple showing red,
Burrs beneath a tree.
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
(The Wood Road)