An Encounter With A Frozen Prey Animal

It is sometimes hard to keep the children in focus, to
get them to stop trying to climb one like a tree or to
put their hands one’s pockets or to want to be carried
back to their dorms, when one is on a mission. After
all, I had a car to move, which was parked somewhere it
should not be, and after that I wanted to get some rest
for these tired eyes. I did not want to interrupt the
joy of some small children merely because two of their
number knew me and were in a playful mood. And so it
was that with some difficulty I managed to get the small
children to walk along with their dormmates down the
road towards their dorm. Only by the time I got into
my car and drove it to where it should be parked, I found
my way to be blocked by that same troop of small children
frozen on the road, focused on something, I knew not what
that kept them from either moving along towards their dorm
or moving out of the way so that I could park my car in
the gravel parking lot next to the pool and gym. But by
the time that I reached them, after most of them had
slowly and shyly gotten out of the way, I saw what made
them freeze, a glorious doe staring out at them and frozen
itself, wondering whether these small children were the
dangerous sort of beings, or whether they were safe to
be around. But I had things to do, so I did not stop and
stare along with them, and I slowly made my way to a
parking spot as far away as possible from the deer, so that
I would not disturb either the kids or the doe, but someone
was looking for the location of the building where the
extra shirts were, and by the time I finished telling him
where to go to get the shirt he was looking for, and having
gotten my car parked, I turned to where the deer was to see
that it was gone, and that the children were continuing their
walk towards their dorm. Perhaps I had scared it after
all with my loud voice or with the sound of my tires driving
on the gravel. Perhaps without even trying to I had scared
a being whose presence was perhaps only in my way, but only
for a short time before both it and I went to where we were
going, and where the others there might have assumed that
I did not see the deer at all, so consumed I was by the
business I was about.


This poem is, as one might imagine, a faithful recording of a scene that happened to me this evening (as I write this, not as it is published, since as I write this on my laptop I am not in a place where the internet is working). Whether or not this poem is a successful effort at painting a somewhat complicated picture of my interactions with several different beings or groups of beings, it certainly is my attempt to convey the reality of that complex interaction as honestly as I can. Perhaps as a poet greatly influenced by the modest but immensely talented poet William Stafford [1], it is easy to paint myself in a self-effacing portrait of someone whose action is clearly at cross purposes with those around me. My mission throughout was a simple and straightfoward one, to walk to my car and drive the car from the side of the road to the place where the car was supposed to be parked, in the gravel parking lot by the pool where I serve as a staff member for a church pre-teen camp. Yet this simple mission was made not very simple by at least three groups of blocking characters. First, my mission to get the car was made more difficult by the fact that there were a couple of girls in the dorm I was walking with that were in a particularly playful mood, wanting to hold hands and have me walk to their cabin, which I was unwilling to do, being a homme solo being surrounded by small children around the age of seven or eight. Then, once I got into my car, with some difficulty, those same children were standing in the road directly in my way. By the time that I was passing them I realized why this was the case, as a doe was standing very close to them, very intent at knowing what kind of strange beings were around her, another complicating factor, as now I was distracted from the simple task of parking my car by feeling it necessary to avoid as much as possible spooking this deer. Finally, this task was made more difficult by the fact that someone asked me a question, and so I had to turn my attention from the doe to another task that was interrupting me, namely the need to point the person to the location of the extra shirts that they were looking for so that theirs could be washed tomorrow.

This is perhaps too many things to have happen at the same time. Certainly there are only a few things one can successfully accomplish at the same time. Getting one’s car to where it should be is a simple task, so is being kind but firm with somewhat silly and playful small children, so is gently herding those children off of the road so that one can get one’s car where it needs to be, so is driving gently so that one does not spook a nearby doe, and so does is giving directions to someone who is himself on a mission. Many of these tasks are at cross purposes with others, and certainly at cross-purposes with the other beings in the scene. What was the deer interested in, aside from a pleasant place to eat something green and tasty? What did the kids want? They wanted to be playful and friendly and invite a friend to their cabin, and they wanted to stand in the road as close as possible as they could be with the doe, who was larger than they were and among whom there was perhaps an equal sense of concern about which was the predator and which was the prey. Perhaps there were no predators there at all. The doe was certainly no predator, except perhaps to the greenery that she was trying to eat. The children, as playful as they were, were certainly innocent in their desire to have a guy travel to their cabin, even if that was not appropriate. Most of the adults there–myself certainly as well as the gentleman looking for the extra shirts–were not engaged in any predatory behavior, but rather we simply were on a mission, a mission that we did not want to involve disappointing or frustration or harm to others, to be sure, but which we wanted to get done far more than we wanted to stand around staring at a doe who was frozen in terror, wondering whether to stay or run, who was staring at us. Sometimes there are no predators around, only people who are either frightened at what they see or who simply want to get something done even if others keep on getting in the way.

What does it mean that one of these overly busy and task-oriented adults then sat down on his bunk and spent a considerable amount of time, when he was tired enough to sleep and probably should have been sleeping after a long and hot and tiring and frustrating day, to write a poem and an analysis/commentary on that poem, about an incident that took place over only a couple of minutes from beginning to end. From beginning to end the incident was only two or three minutes, at most, yet it took more than half an hour to write the foregoing text about that incident. While I was in a hurry trying to park my car initially, I was not in a hurry once the mission was done, rather I had a lot of things on my mind. Why was it that a deer thought that a camp full of preteen children and their adult staff was something worth treating as one’s own private salad bar? What did either the deer or the little children expect from each other, given that each was torn between intense curiosity and a certain amount of fear? Was it wrong that I was so task-oriented to not want to humor the children for a few minutes, or that I felt irritated that they were in my way when I was trying to drive my car to its parking spot, or that I felt irritated again when I had to turn my attention from a graceful doe in fine form to answer the question of where the other driver next to me could pick up a t-shirt? Why then, if I was a character so much in the wrong, so busy and so hurried and so unable to do any one thing but to try to do a great number of things, perhaps not very well, at the same time, did I feel that it was appropriate or necessary to then sit around and write about it? If one is too busy in the moment to do what is graceful and elegant and thoughtful, why then does one think that things will go any better when one spends the time reflecting on it and writing about a story that might be seen as somewhat embarrassing to oneself, that paints oneself in a bad light as one of those adults who simply rushes from task to task while missing those aspects of critical moments that are the most touching and the most significant and the most glorious, such as the interaction between two of God’s creatures, people and deer, in a place that is likely very enjoyable for the both of them, far more than from the task-oriented adults who simply want to get things done, so much so that they sometimes forget to be, or to wonder, or to appreciate what they are seeing until it is too late to do anything but write a post mortem about it.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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