(07/24/2020)
A doe and her fawn have spent the last several days in the shaded edge of the woods near the far side of the lake. Several times a day, they emerge from the tall weeds to wade through the water. In the past, I have seen fawns frolic in the water, splashing and running back and forth, away from the momma and back again. This fawn seems more timid, however, or perhaps the heat has mellowed its temperament. It dutifully and closely follows the mother, into the water for a few minutes to drink before disappearing again into the brush and the woods.

In the 20+ years we have lived here, I have learned to watch the lake more when the creeks run dry. More critters emerge from the woods and the fields to refresh themselves here, to quench their thirst. I have seen a deer drink from one side of the lake while a coyote drinks from the other side. Bees and birds walk along the water’s edge, getting their fill as well. When the creek and stream beds are dry, our lake becomes the life blood of the ecosystem, a refuge for the thirsty.

Also, during such heat, it seems the biting flies become twice as vicious. The deer flick their tails and their ears constantly in an attempt to keep the flies at bay. I sometimes wonder why the deer don’t just lay down in the water to protect and cool their bodies, which have to be covered in bites. But I know they feel exposed here, unsafe, and I assume the flies aren’t as pesky in the cool of the forest where the deer spend much of their days.

If I don’t wear some kind of repellent, the deer flies chase me as I mow the lawn, buzz in my hair and around my head as I run the weed eater. I have never found justification for the existence of deer flies in this world or for poison ivy. Seems both are here for no reason other than to make us suffer. I have met folks who aren’t affected by poison ivy, but I have yet to meet a person a deer fly didn’t want to bite.

These days, it seems we are living in limbo, waiting for the current health threat to move on or fade out, seeking a return to normal. Yet, the deer, the bees, even the flies, are all doing what they normally do. They are unaffected by our crises, by our social distancing, our masks, our fears, and our concerns. As I witness the wildlife around us, I see and experience normalcy and find comfort in it.

How fortunate we are. Fortunate to have low infection numbers, fortunate to be able to wander the fields and woods without masks or concern for anything more than things like biting flies and poison ivy. During such times of stress and fearmongering, of sickness, invisible threats, and conspiracy theories, it is important to be grateful for our blessings. I am grateful I can look out the window and see what I have always seen, a deer and her fawn wading the waters for a drink, the honeybees gathering pollen and fluids for the hive. I’m grateful for the ability to meander for miles and never encounter another human being, for the ability to experience a normal walk in the woods.

I am grateful for the normalcy I encounter in nature. But I will never be grateful for biting flies.

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