"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
The title may be the only thing remotely musical about this post. This post is not scientific, nor musical, nor psychology-related. But it is artistic, and it belongs in the blog as one of those "make the ordinary extraordinary" moments. I just had one of the most beautiful fifteen minutes of my life. I just felt like I was some character in a fiction novel. I just talked to a deer.
I was gently swinging on the swing set in my backyard, eating my hotpocket and enjoying the beautiful weather. 82 degrees Fahrenheit, sunny blue sky, gentle breeze pushing me along, my thoughts drifting, thinking about how I would no longer be in my teens soon, deer. I frooze. Deer? My eyes darted back toward the trees in the distance. About forty feet away, there stood a deer, a doe. Doe, a deer. Beautiful, tall, full-grown, majestic. She had a kind of hesitant curiosity about her, as did I. She stared at me, perhaps some fear in those eyes. I didn't want to scare her away. I wanted to let her know, "hey, I like you, you're beautiful, please stay." When my eyes met hers, we connected. That moment, everything was still and time slowed. We just didn't know what would happen next. I felt awkward being stared at so intently, and I lowered my gaze. I rested my head along the swing's chain. I let my hair drift in the wind. I smiled. No teeth, just a shy smile. I looked up again, smiling. I looked at the doe in my periphery, not directly. I could tell her eyes were still penetrating on me. And so I continued, resting my head, trying to appear natural, trying to tell her I'm not dangerous, I'm just like you, I want to be friends. I did. And then I did something funny, I bowed. I sat in that swing and lowered my head, ever so slightly, to show my respect. I was half hoping she might bow too. I could tell she wasn't as scared anymore. There was some curiosity in her eyes. I cocked my head, showing my interest as well. And then she did something.
Still staring at me, she lifted her right leg, deliberately, slowly, and then just as deliberately, stomped the ground. It wasn't a hard, angry stomp, but it was a firm, steady, stomp. I waited a little. Then I too, while still sitting on the swing, lifted my right leg, ever so slowly, and then lowered it, not as firm as the deer's placement, but with deliberation. I'm not sure what made me do it, it just felt natural. I wanted to tell her, you're the one in charge, I'm shy, I'm timid, don't be afraid of me. And then, she did it again, but with her left leg. I copied once again, with my left leg. Her left, my left, her left, my left, her right, my right, her left, my left. It continued, a sort of steady tempo of about 10 beats per minute (10 seconds between leg lifts), her leading, me following. I'm not sure how long we just did that, probably just a couple of minutes, but it felt like a long time. And then, she stopped. She walked around a little. I thought she was about to leave, but she came back. I looked around to. I started playing with my hair, pretending to groom myself. And then, I bowed again. This time, deeply, my hair touching the grass. I looked up, half expecting her to be gone, but there she was, looking at me with softened eyes. Then I lowered myself to the grass, I felt too artificial, too distanced, sitting on a man-made swing set. I made myself lower, I made myself more approachable, sitting sideways, resting my weight on one hand, like how girls sit when they're wearing a dress. The doe started walking toward me. She did seem curious. I held my breath. And then, perhaps thirty feet away, she stopped. She stomped her right leg, but this time, immediately followed it by stomping her left leg. She waited. I shifted so my weight was on both on my hands, and then gently lifted up my right, and then left hands. She stares at me. Five seconds pass. She does it again. Right leg, then left leg. I follow--right hand, left hand---and just as my left hand reaches the grass again, she suddenly lets out a tremendous snort of air, almost like a sneeze, and prances off. Really prancing, she seemed so joyful. I was in shock. I didn't know what it meant. I wonder what I had told her? It seemed so sudden, like I had just said something delightful, and she had to go and tell someone. I was in disbelief, and just stayed there half sitting, half lying on the wet grass, jeans wet but I didn't even notice.
And then, recovering from my daze, I returned to the swing set. I stayed there for another five minutes, thinking she might return and have something to say. Then I went inside, grabbed some corn, and returned to the swing set, waiting for her. I stayed out there another ten minutes or so, thinking about what had just happened, and realizing this was the most beautiful kind of experience I could have asked for before leaving my teen years. That doe had a kind of wisdom and maturity. I do feel more ready to grow up now.
She never returned. I'm leaving for the lake tomorrow, but I'll be back in a few days.
It's argued that theory of mind, "the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own" and an important component of empathy, is unique to humans, but I think this doe I met today has theory of mind. (So I lied, this post is a bit psychology-related.)