I had no reason to expect a deer, even a young one—it was noonish, after all, and all smart deer are hiding in the cool, leafy undergrowth at that time of day. She saw me first, and her curiosity prompted her to take one step toward me, instead of bounding away. She’d been perfectly camouflaged—her legs like saplings, her fur the color of bark, her babyish white spots gone. But still small, young. For a moment I thought she was going to walk over and sniff me, or place her head in my lap.
I did the only thing to do: I bowed and I told her she was beautiful. She looked at me awhile, then stepped carefully away, intent on some morsel I could neither see nor smell.
The deer for me are like God: their appearances unpredictable, unexpected, a bit unsettling even. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has the human heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love God,” says Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:9, picking up a passage from Isaiah 64. I tend to wonder where God is, God being not-like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp, obediently appearing when summoned. And then suddenly in a way I hadn’t anticipated: there is God.
Already it had been a good morning: a friend on the mend from a wicked case of flu, a spirited rendition of J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #5 on the radio as I drove to the park. The deer. I walked deeply satisfied along the river and trees, thinking how much more valuable and lasting they were than my life. Perhaps the giant sycamore trees feel for me the same sort of tenderness I feel for the squirrels nibbling the red berries of the yew tree. We simply cannot know.
On my way back to the car, I noted that although the deer was long gone, masses of dark birds were congregating in the trees near the parking lot entrance. I wanted to join their crackle-grackle chatter, and so here I am at the keyboard.
Praise to the God of flowing water and huge rocks that support moss and wild aster.
Praise for the leaves that know it’s time to be brilliant and then let go, to make room for quiet and new growth.
Praise for working up a sweat on the trail and taking a hot shower and getting into clean clothes.
Praise for work to be done and friends with whom to share dinner.
Praise for bright troubleshooters who studied electronics and help me keep my computer going.
Praise for a single valuable strand of clothesline that allows me to have the scent of freshly laundered sheets.
Praise for the God who deserves to be acknowledged, perhaps hidden among the trees and admired for all beauty.