Deer step out to greet my vehicle on every winding trip up the mountain highway — I’ve yet to slip behind the wheel without encountering at least one. Sometimes it feels like the deer know I’m coming and wait for me by the side of the road.
One night I rounded a corner, already braking to a stop, in front of a lit vision broadside in my high beams. The deer stood in the middle of the road, apparently unconcerned, looking me straight in the eye before melting into the darkness.
The Celts believed the sighting of a deer was a wondrous event, a symbol of many possibilities. In the Celtic tradition there were two aspects to deer — male and female. The red Hind, Elid in Gaelic, represents feminine subtlety and grace. Celtic folklore believed that Elid calls from the Faery realm, inviting us to leave behind the trappings of civilization in favour of going into the forest to explore our true spiritual nature.
I too have felt this calling, even as I swerved to avoid these sisters of Elid, wondering also: If I should strike this mystical being, who in Whitecroft might teach me to butcher the carcass? No point in leaving a perfectly edible symbol by the side of the road.
During a morning flurry I walked our new dog to the local waterfall. We passed patches of green too moist and warm for snow to stick, the air perfectly muffled with the scent of its falling. At the end of the trail I tied Fozzie to a tree and climbed down to the base of the waterfall, closed my eyes and absorbed the roar of the water, the cold snowflake kisses, the intermittent howling of my anxious dog. Squinting my eyes made it easy to imagine Japanese snow monkeys soaking in the steaming waters.
Lately, children and parents I work with have been sending me quotations of Biblical scripture. Not being a man of the cloth, at first I never gave them a second thought, but recent experiences have me reappraising these offerings from a more thoughtful perspective.
One afternoon, while exploring the creek behind our house with Finn, I heard water flop as something stirred and broke the surface. The next instant I spied its frozen electric quiver midstream in 16 inches of water — a monstrous beauty of a fish — and not just compared to minnows, the only other fish I’ve thus far spied in Louis Creek. This fish appeared to be a foot and a half long with a pink-mottled back and grey underbelly, as thick around as a man’s forearm at the elbow. Blinking my eyes, wondering whether I might be seeing things, I angled closer. The fish, sensing my presence, slipped nearer to the cut bank, hovering in a foot of water, his form half-concealed beneath a fallen tree.
Finnegan, alert like all children to magic in his presence, crouched beside me and whispered, “Dad, where did that fish come from?”
For a long moment I paused the way all parents do when asked a question to which they don’t know the answer, wondering at the beautiful synchronicity of the world we inhabit, searching for the words to help my four year old understand: This is what it feels like to be blessed.