FD and I managed to sleep in late yesterday morning, which is fairly rare for us. I looked at the clock a couple of times before I decided I really needed to let our three little house dogs outside to do their bathroom business. It was 9:00. Bear and Tori had been circling our bed for a while, but Zoe was still snuggled in her little bed. I finally flopped the covers back, noting the room was chilly and the closed window blinds emitted a strange, dim light. It was cloudy outside. Opening the blinds I was not surprised to see the gray skies and swaying trees. Keeping true to the day’s forecast, a few spits of moisture were clinging to the outside window panes. Only two days ago, Oklahoma enjoyed 70° temperatures, albeit accompanied by some gusty winds. That day, I walked around the yard in short sleeves, enjoying the almost balmy January weather. But yesterday, the bitter cold came back with a brisk slap of reality, as if to insult my dreamy thoughts of warmer days.
And speaking of dreamy thoughts, oh, how I longed for my Daisy girl! Lately, I had been looking back over the past year’s photographs of Daisy deer, and dreaming of the days she and I spent together. I was used to seeing her nearly every day. But, since November, Daisy had been disappearing for 3 or 4 days at a time, heading to the woods near the river, just about a mile away. The last time I saw Daisy, she feasted on a little corn and deer chow in the feeders at the bottom of the slope, sipped for a long time at the water tub, turned to the north to duck under our barbed-wire fence, and then ambled off towards the river to the west. She seemed to know just where she was going.
Over the last couple of months, I found it difficult to wait several days for her to show up. I tried to tell myself that her change in behavior was simply a part of the rutting season and that all of the deer had changed their habits. It was somewhat comforting to know Daisy was still running with the two little fawns that we had seen her with during the late summer months and into the fall. But in late December, Daisy seemed even more aloof with us than ever before. The last time she visited, she arrived without her reflective collar and FD and I had a very difficult time getting a new one on her. She actually ran from us, and wanted no part of another collar! FD finally managed it, but Daisy’s ears stayed cocked back after that. Generally, that is a sign of aggression, and at the very least, a sure sign of agitation. You know, like, “Jeez mom, I can dress myself, and that thing looks stupid!”
Last Sunday marked nine days since we had seen Daisy at the feeding station below our house. While visiting with our neighbor to the north, FD learned that he had spotted Daisy with about five does just a few days prior. She and her friends were feeding in a neighboring wheat pasture to the west.
After hearing this, FD and I hiked the mile to the river that next day, in hopes of spotting our Daisy girl. We saw plenty of deer prints, wild hog prints and wallows, but no Daisy. There were various other critter tracks along the many animal trails as well. We noted lots of trails that led down to the river bank below. The river appeared to be quite shallow in areas, likely suffering from two years of drought, but obviously still providing adequate drinking water for the wildlife.
During our hike, I discovered an old, one-gallon glass bottle half buried in the dirt, and we found a few lost turkey feathers, which I like to use in arrangements around the house. I snagged my hair in the trees, and managed to poke my right eye on a branch. I decided I would never make a very good deer. I spotted some hawks and owls (that’s how I got poked in the eye – watching wildlife and not paying attention to where I was walking) and I marveled at the types of fungus and lichen on the trees. Though I found the area along the river to be an excellent place where one might sit and photograph wildlife, I also decided it would not be very safe for me to be alone there. Given the number of wild hog tracks and hog feces we encountered, it was obvious this area of the river woodlands was overrun with these potentially dangerous beasts.
We never did see Daisy deer during our long hike over the weekend, so on Monday evening after FD returned from work, we walked the quarter-mile through the pecan orchard to the wheat pasture where Daisy had been spotted by our neighbor, picking up pecans along the way. FD reached the hill overlooking the wheat pasture before I did, and managed to catch a glimpse of Daisy and two other does, running into the woods with white-tails flashing! They had spotted him and took off running into the safety of the woods. I arrived too late, but it was enough to know FD had seen Daisy, and that she was alert and doing well. I felt comforted knowing she was with a small herd, and living in the mile long area between the river and our home. She was protected by the woodlands, had safe access to water from the river, and could graze on wheat pasture and winter woodland browse. But, best of all these things, she had her instinct to guide her.
Still yet, being the worrisome mother that I am, I could not help but want to see Daisy in her new habitat, roaming with the other deer. Likely, the deer were instinctively “yarding up” as deer tend to do this time of year, especially in the northern states. With the arrival of colder temperatures and snow, deer tend to graze and rest together, traveling in larger, protected groups. I did not really want to bother her or the herd she was with – I simply wanted to spy a bit, assuring myself she was safe and doing well. So, for three evenings this past week, when FD came home from work, he and I walked to the wheat pasture or drove the road on the other side of it, but found no sign of Daisy. Our neighbor inquired about Daisy too, stating he also had not seen her this week. But I knew in my gut, that Daisy was fine, that she was doing well, and I chided myself for being such a worrywart.
Today marked day sixteen that Daisy has not come home, and it is day six since FD saw her grazing with the two does in the nearby wheat pasture. I still have hope that she will return here often, to her birth home, to have a nibble of corn, and perhaps rest beneath the canopy of beautiful trees in our canyon. I realize my role as Daisy’s deer mother has changed. This is the normal flow of life… we are born into, and need, the care of our mothers but, eventually, we take off on our own. I know that Daisy will, as we all must do, trust instinct and make her own way in this world. I too, must trust that instinct will guide her and let go of my worry and fear. It is a time of change for both of us.
I get the feeling though, that this change is a little bit easier and more welcomed by Daisy than it has been for me! And I wonder to myself, will the Universe provide me with another orphan of some sort in the coming spring? Will Daisy become a mother and bring her little fawn to roam the woodlands where she grew up as a fawn herself? Only time and the Universe will tell. But one thing is for certain, ultimately, we have to trust that instinct will guide each of us, and lead us to where we belong. I need to remember and hold fast to this truth. I know it is time for me to let go of Daisy, and that I must do so with love. It is time for me to trust instinct and the Universe and allow my girl to be what she was born to be…
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…