An unexpected visit from some graceful creatures greeted me on the first morning of 2014.
For the past week, my wife, our friends and I rented a house in the Poconos, seeking the perfect escape from the craziness of New York. The contrast between the cramped environs of our urban apartment and the wilderness of our getaway was clear from the get-go.
After stocking up the house with provisions (20 minutes to the nearest grocery store!) and planning our week’s schedule—skiing, snow-tubing, a trip to Mount Airy casino—the six of us put on swimsuits, braced ourselves and dashed over to the outdoor hot tub. The steam rising from the water formed a cocoon of warmth in the icy winter air. The woods behind the house were quiet and dark; the sky slowly filled with stars.
We were relaxing–and dreading our unavoidable climb back out into the chill–when the bubble jets churning the water suddenly died. In the quiet that followed, we became aware of the sound of hooves crunching through the delicate sheet of iced-over snow that blanketed the backyard. Out of the darkness, a lone figure emerged. A doe.
She stared at us so intently that my wife feared the deer would throw on a bikini and join us. For a moment, the six of us stayed silent. We just stared right back, no more than 20 feet between us. Eventually, the doe turned and disappeared back into the woods.
“Do you think she was hungry?” one of my friends asked.
“What do deer eat anyway? Carrots?” another friend mused.
The next evening, two deer came to visit the hot tub. The following night, a group of deer strolled past us just before we dashed back inside. We should have expected it and been prepared with our camera phones or “deer food,” but we were surprised each time. We never saw any around during the day.
Our last night there, New Year’s Eve, I vowed to get a photo, but after midnight we got busy cleaning up and packing and never made it outside for one last soak–or one last visit from our white-tailed friends.
I awoke on New Year’s Day a little bit sad. I wasn’t quite ready to head back to the real world. Still a little groggy, I walked into the kitchen for a glass of water. I perked up right away. Through the window over the sink, I could see a deer outside in the backyard.
I rushed to get my iPhone to take a picture–1% battery left. I hadn’t plugged it in the night before! Positioning myself by the window, I quickly snapped a blurry shot.
The deer stayed. Then, out from the woods, came another. And another. Five deer in all crowded into the yard. My wife, our friends and I gathered by the windows to take some snapshots of the magical moment. Strangely enough, my phone battery lasted throughout.
Somehow, it seemed as if these deer knew we were leaving this morning and had shown up to give us a proper farewell. It reminded me of Amy Grant’s story in the April/May 2013 issue of Mysterious Ways, encountering a deer at her vacation rental, at a moment when she needed comfort. And of a story we published in the Mysterious Ways Newsletter some time ago, about a man in a wheelchair who longed to see a deer in the wild. And the story shared by our sister publication, Angels On Earth, about a group of deer that sensed a woman was in danger, and led her to find help.
Just before leaving, I saw the largest of the deer standing at the trashcans, nosing through a bag of cans and cups from the night before. When she saw me approach, she quickly bounded away. I opened up the garbage bag I was carrying and took out a mostly finished box of Cheerios. I poured the remains in a neat pile at the edge of the woods. I wasn’t sure it would help. Did deer even eat cereal? But it had to be better than whatever else they’d find rummaging through our refuse.
As we drove away, headed back to the city, I took one last look at our rental through the rear view mirror. The deer was back, munching away at the breakfast I’d left behind.
What a wonderful way to start 2014. I’m excited to see what other surprises await me in the year ahead.