They came before the sunbeams pierced the darkness. Two sets of heart-shaped foot prints lead to, around and then away from the small hills of corn I placed at the woodland’s edge, an offering to the wild things to gather strength and sustenance during an extended period of subzero temperatures. No remnants of the corn’s golden shell remain. To see my small hills of goodwill consumed fills my heart with joy.
From the size of the tracks, I decide it’s a doe and her off-spring from last year. Others have come, too; a rabbit, a field mouse, and several crows but it’s the deer tracks that take hold of my imagination. It’s safe for me to assume the doe is eating for two or three. The burden of nourishing the new life in her womb and her own life is greatest at this time of year. The shrubs and forages they have been eating over the long winter are depleted and spring growth hasn’t begun. It’s truly a time of life or death for some in the herd.
Soon her instincts will cause her to drive off the yearling. She does this to focus all her energy on raising this year’s vulnerable fawn(s). The yearling’s old life will come to an abrupt end. I’ll probably see it wandering around the fields looking lost and confused for a few weeks. Independence will come at a high price for some, crossing roads safely is a skill taught by experience. Others will adapt well to this time of transition, venturing out into a new way of living without hesitation, being an example of gentle strength and resiliency for all of us.
The thoughts of the big changes ahead for the yearling stayed with me as I walked on. The enduring trust the doe placed in her instincts is indomitable. She has clear knowledge that it is a lesson she can’t teach her yearling. Trusting its instincts is something the yearling can only learn by being driven off to live a new way. Nature reminds me of life’s continual cycle of renewal. Harsh as that may be at times, life never gets old.
As the years pass, I am beginning to understand that life doesn’t grow old. I do. And if the aliveness in this old life dies away, I will find a new way to live alive.
Note: The photo in the featured image is of an unusually friendly yearling that seemed to find comfort hanging out in our yard and around the horses last summer.