In the fall of 1989, a couple of friends and I took a much-needed road trip to a cabin in Indiana. We all had children at home. Two of us were pregnant at the time and looking forward to long, uninterrupted talks by the fire. After a good nights' sleep, we put on the coffeepot first thing the next morning and started talking. By late afternoon, the conversation was still going, and we were still in our bathrobes.
All of us have life experiences that go untold. Maybe it was the safety of the cabin, the fact that the phone never rang, that allowed one of my friends to talk about her childhood so vulnerably. She told us a story that was sobering and terrifying.
I was seven months into my pregnancy, carrying my first daughter. Listening to this woman's story, I felt for the first time a very real fear for what might happen, what could happen, to my child despite all of my efforts to keep her safe.
A little bit of evil goes a long way.
A big dose is devastating.
We took a break in our conversation, emotionally drained. The sun would be setting soon and we all needed a little space to digest everything that had been spoken. I showered and dressed and went outside. I wanted to yell at someone. I wanted to cry. Instead, I picked my way down the wooded hill and crossed a creek by crawling on my hands and knees over a fallen tree.
I could not make any sense of life, at least not of that woman's life. I wanted to stop imagining the details of her story. I couldn't.
As I reached the other side of the stream, I looked up and saw a deer standing in the trees about thirty feet away from me. It was not much bigger than a fawn, but old enough to have lost its spots. Slowly, I began walking toward the deer. He didn't run. When I was just a few feet away from him, I got down on my hands and knees and crept up beside him. I kept thinking he would bolt, but he stayed still.
Slowly I stretched out my hand until my fingers touched his nose. We both jumped back a little. Still he didn't run. I reached out again. This time I touched the fur on his neck…then his shoulder. I began petting him gently, then scratching his chest until I found myself wrapping my arms around his neck and leaning against him. It was the most peaceful interaction I have ever had with an untamed animal. After a while I backed away, turned, and walked toward the creek. When I looked back, the deer was gone.
It's hard to put into words what I drew from that unexpected experience. Strangely, a calm wonder had replaced my fear.