Thursday, April 4, 2013

Deer Meditation

Still From Trespassing

I've been documenting my daily swims at the ocean and putting them into a video grid. I'm calling it Trespassing for a few reasons, but I won't mention them all. One reason is that the major part of my journey to the oceanfront involves trespassing through several neighbours’ yards. The entire time I have to be wary of the presence of other humans, who are extremely possessive of their property. I’m very serious about never getting caught, because I have built a deep familiarity (and a meaningful relationship) with this particular swimming-place, and with the animals that live around it. My caution leads to my acting more like a deer than a human:

During summer weekends when the neighbours frequent their cottages, I usually swim in the morning or evening. Over time, I have tended to forego the human trails in favour of deer trails, which afford me more privacy and places to hide when I hear people. When I  do hear a person, I freeze in my tracks. I have learned to stop often, be patient, and listen. I am relieved when I check the trail and see hoof prints instead of boot prints.

When I read the above paragraph, it’s actually unclear whether it's from the perspective of a human or a deer. The thought strikes me: There is a direct relationship between moving like a deer, and perceiving like a deer.


I am celebrating today because I finally found another trespass-route, in the exact opposite direction. This one goes away from the water, between properties and up onto the mountain. Finally, I have a quick route from my home to the network of deer trails that combs the entire island. No human trails anywhere. Every footstep follows a path carved by another species. 

At first, I broke through the branches loudly, distracted by my own thoughts, too much to do. Stress and confusion and expectations.

Eventually, slow down and listen to the rain, rub my hands on the rock face. Arbutus. Waist-deep in salal.

Crouch under a huge cedar log for a long time and listen to the rain, in a quiet bedding-place where deer have doubtless slept for decades. 

Walk slowly and quietly, stopping often. Underfoot, the gentle resistance of rotten logs and the pillowing moss.

Startled now by another snap - an incautious deer, across the slope, freezes in embarrassment. 

We stop and watch each other. 

I say hi. 

He flicks his tail. 

We move on.

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