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Seeing Ellen

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I've had to walk a lot lately. I always have to walk just as hunting season comes on. It's the short days, the elusive light, the coming of the long dark. It's everything. 
And everything is so beautiful. 

I've got a talisman tree that, by some incredible stroke of provenance, actually lives on the farthest east corner of our 80 acre property. It's the sister oak to the one who used to mark our driveway. 

And it is magnificent. I stand beneath it and gloat that nobody can cut it down but us, and we aren't going to cut it down, ever. There's a little red barn we don't own right near it, and it makes for some lovely photos, especially at sunrise.

Just north of it are the Three Graces, Auxiliary. They're all tulips, and they do a graceful dance against the rising sun. There's sometimes a redtail we call James perched in the tallest one.

If you click on this to embiggen it you will see the light in his eye.

 I see him as I head for my morning place, where yesterday I watched a seven-point buck taking corn. The way the sun heaves up through the forest soothes me.

The last red maple leaves are leaving their tree-mothers.

And when the sun is just right, I can see our tower top glinting on the return trip. Supermoon riding high. You'll have to click to see the tower, left of the Graces.

I have been missing Ellen, not that I'd be seeing her in the yard yet; she usually came in December and January for the little corn handouts I gave. I just miss knowing she's around, miss her crooked little face and the way she used to run with her head down and tilted over to the right.

On November 14, I saw a wee button buck tiptoeing into the yard who looked awfully familiar. 
I took in his details, smiling widely.

A pinkish nose. Hmm. That's interesting!
White blazes between his toes: check. 
A bit of asymmetry about his face: check.
Odd set to the ears: check.
There was just something about him. And I saw Ellen looking back at me.

He was young, and he was apparently alone, which also argued that he might be Ellen's child. He should still be with his mother, unless his mother has been murdered.

Of course, I didn't know if I'd ever see him again, bow season being in full swing and gun season coming right up. Uch, how I hate that immutable fact of life, that some of my neighbors are going to get gunned down every year. The way Ellen beat the odds for nine years made me love her all the more.

Four days later, I saw him again. I was able to ascertain that yes, his left eye seemed larger, wider and differently set than his right. There's definitely an asymmetry going on in his face. This was something I'd noticed the first time I saw him, but wasn't sure about. 


There were the white flames between his toes. It was Pinky, named for his pink nose.

But this time, he wasn't alone.

Now I had seen Ellen once over the summer of 2016, when fawns were still spotty, and to my amazement my elderly friend had not one but two spotty fawns with her. She'd always had singletons before, but even old eggs divide. Incredible. Say what you want about her, but Ellen was a highly fit individual, reproducing well into her golden years, with twins at 9!

I love this photo from my last live photo session with her in May 2016, with a cardinal singing on the snag overhead; her crooked ears...she, unbeknownst to me, gestating two fawns!

A little doe fawn ducked her head to the right and ran awkwardly a few yards, in a manner so reminiscent of Ellen I laughed out loud.

She stopped, as does will, and looked back over her shoulder at me. 

If this is Pinky's sister, she's a looker. So much white, with big rings around her eyes (Pinky has those, too); a big white bib, and best of all, flashy white backs to her forelegs! I decided to call her Flag, after Jody's pet in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' The Yearling. A formative book if ever there were one.

Am I sentimental about deer? Oh yes. Did reading The Yearling five times as a kid influence how I feel about them? Undoubtedly. I like knowing deer as individuals. I love to notice the little things (white leg linings) that set them apart from the herd. It's a privilege to know them. 

And, having noticed those little things, you can't un-notice them. Look at those eyerings! Those legs!

Flag paused and looked over her shoulder at me, Liam's willow tree making a golden cataract in the foreground. 

Be careful, kids, without your wise and durable little mother to guide you through this hunting season, and next, and next. Flag, watch out for those ten-point bucks. Pinky, I hope I get to see you grow antlers next year. 

Maybe you'll be as beautiful as Beck, Ellen's masterpiece, her son from 2013. 

You don't have Ellen here to tell you where to find a little handout of corn, the way Beck did, but I think you'll figure it out. 

It comforts me, seeing Ellen again, seeing her genes and spirit and slightly crooked face again in her children. I'm leaning into the pain, and being pleasantly surprised at the gifts that come as a result.


Thank you for this.

Posted by Minnie Fleming November 22, 2016 at 5:21 AM

Have to share this Julie. Expresses so well some of my feelings for deer.

Your kinship with Ellen I fully understand. Peace.

I have happy tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing Ellen's offspring with us.
Lynda in Michigan.

So uplifting to see these two thriving. May it always be so.

I love that you and your family provide a safe space for animals and that you are there to share your experiences with us. Your words are soothing and deeply touching, regardless of the subject. Thank you.

Beautiful and so full of hope!

Oh what a gift you give us. Thank you Julie! ♥

Thank you, Julie. Beautiful post. Ellen lives on. Leaning into the pain. Spot on.
And by the way, I was looking at the latest Jim Morris t-shirt catalog and checking the names of the designers--which I usually don't do. And yes, there was YOUR NAME! Love the design. Will have to treat myself and some friends to "I have friends in high places."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Giving thanks for your wonderful blog. Hoping these two beauties can stay safe.

So very beautiful! Hope you and your family have a happy Thanksgiving!

I'd like to think that Ellen was guiding them somehow from her point of experience that is beyond space and time... guiding them to you, because you needed to see them, and because they have a safe haven with you.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Posted by Anonymous November 23, 2016 at 4:07 AM

Indeed comforting & continuing! Live does go on thru offspring. Blessings to you & them. Love their names!

Indeed comforting & continuing! Life does go on thru offspring. Blessings to you & them. Love their names!

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