Fields aren’t their only domain. They inhabit our space as well. Our space. Like roads. (We like to think of roads as “ours,” fields and forests as “theirs.”) As I pedal toward those deer standing in the middle of the road, they pause, stare at me, then flee as if they’ve done something wrong and I’m Dickens’s headmaster, Wackford Squeers, come to punish them. They often pause longer than I’d think wise, assessing me. I imagine, from their perspective, I’m an odd, garish animal. (“What kind of creature would wear those color combinations…together!?”) They dart off before I draw too near, rolling those massive, limpid 8 ball eyes.
Often, a few more deer appear from the other side of the road and leap after their companions, hooves barely touching the turf. Seconds later I pass by and they’re gone, like a Houdini magic trick. There’s barely enough cover for Adam to hide his private parts from Eve in these places, but those deer have miraculously dissipated into the ether.
Other times, I marvel at their elegance as they graze far from me in a wide open field. They’re close enough that I see their nervous awareness, yet they also have such contradictory calm repose. They’re simultaneous Yin and Yang. How do they do this? Usually if I’m listing toward a heavy Yin, then Yang is somewhere else, probably sipping a cup of coffee in a busy bistro miles away.
Like much wildlife out there, repose and action are juggled at a microsecond level that we humans can only marvel at. We see this agile contradiction in our back yard squirrels, birds at the feeders, the neighbor’s cat, but most majestically around here, in deer.
Let me make my own imaginative leap here. (If you want to replace that with delusional, then you go right ahead. I’ll not only understand, I’ll probably join you.) I’ve noticed that we cyclists have some things in common with the deer. We do. Somewhat. For the most part–and I recognize there are exceptions–at the fight or flight response level, we, like deer, flee. Dog chases us, off we go in the sprint of our lives. Traffic gets too heavy, we find a quieter road. We normally don’t chase the dogs and we normally don’t mess around in traffic. Normally. I’ve had my moments. I think it’s safe to say, though, that if survival is our desired outcome, we fear aggressive dogs and we fear careless drivers. In those respects, we are deer.
Perhaps, at another level, a level of illusive possibility rather than probability, though we’re not deer, many of us would love to be those deer, veering our bikes off the road and into the field wherever we’d like. The ultimate freedom. We, too, want to disappear behind the hedgerow and dance our wheels along the furrows without fear of retribution from the land owner. We do that in designated areas already, but imagine if we had the opportunity to do it wherever, whenever the inclination struck. Untethered, unregulated, leaving barely discernible tire tracks, our version of the ephemeral cloven hoof.
Okay, snap out of it. You’re not going there and neither am I. But don’t you–when the air is fresh and the sky is blue and there’s the quiet rustle of leaves in the trees; when you’re staring across the field at the beautiful grace of a deer in mid-bound–put yourself there, even if just for a few fleeting seconds? The few fleeting seconds that it takes that deer to become one with the landscape and vanish into the trees.