I got up this morning, rather lazily, as is often the case on Wednesdays, a day on which I typically work at home and relax a bit. As is my routine, I walked into my dining room where sliding glass doors open out to my back yard.
Habitually glancing out, I refocused my eyes and looked again. I had an unexpected visitor. Though many people complain of their gardens being ravaged and overrun by deer, as an inner city dweller, it was a delightful surprise to see one of these beautiful creatures grazing in my back yard.
My camera received her image several times through the kitchen window. Then I thought, "Why not go outside with her?"
To my surprise, she did not go bounding off at the sight of me. Instead, she looked at me expectantly with those bottomless brown eyes.
Sensing that she was hungry (what urban deer isn't?), I returned to my kitchen and and found an apple. It was quite a large apple and I didn't know if she would like it, so I cut it in half and brought half out to her. I walked up to her and she sniffed it hesitantly. I set it in the grass near her.
In seconds, she was sniffing more and then began to eat hungrily. Soon the half-apple had disappeared and the doe was staring hopefully at me again. I could not mistake the meaning of that universal look, "More?"
Unable to resist her, I re-entered my house and grabbed the other half of the apple. She was waiting for me. This time, she took it from my hand and soon had consumed it in its entirety. Again, I was met by that gaze.
I had nothing else to give her. I held out my empty hands. She waited. I wondered if she would let me touch her. However, each time I slowly extended a hand, she moved her head to keep her eyes trained on me to see what I was up to. Wise creature.
I held forth my hand again, in case she wanted to sniff me. (I don't know if deer feel a need to sniff but dog-memories came to mind.) She sniffed - and then she licked my hand. Though she was undoubtedly searching for more apple-sweetness, I couldn't help but experience this as a gesture of affection, despite her wariness.
Having gone back indoors, I watched her as she walked around my yard, noting carefully whether she was going to start munching on my butterfly garden. (Some things are off limits, even to friends...) However, she did not. She walked through the garden a few times but almost appeared to be stepping carefully, as though not to trample the plants.
Then she folded herself up in the grass for a while, appearing content to rest in the dappling of morning light and shade.
As much joy as her visit brought me this morning, I was sad for this dear one. Her life is confined to a small wooded area between our urban lots and the freeway below. We are far from the vast park system the city offers and even farther from the wild and natural habitat that should be hers.
She has settled for this tiny world because it is all she knows. She does not know the way to her true Home. How I wish I could help her find it - the place where she could forage for luscious foods meant just for her, where she could kick up her hoofs and bound across gentle slopes with utter abandon. Where her little one (viewed from a distance earlier this year), could grow to maturity without hunger or fear.
She was a gift of grace to me this morning - completely unexpected and not of my asking.
She was grace because of her natural beauty. But more than that - she reminded me of how we humans often relate to our divine Helper. Expectant and hopeful, but afraid to get too close. Warily accepting gifts - but pulling back from more intimate contact. Living in our limited worlds, assuming that this is all there is...or dreaming of a grander world with no idea how to get there.
For my deer-friend, I am no divine helper. Just one little oasis of caring in her difficult urban life. And yet is that not often the way of the true Divine Helper? Does He not offer us little oases of compassion in our sorrows, of light in our darkness? Unexpected moments of grace that hint at more?
Indeed. One came to me just this morning.
His grace abounds...