Out early this morning (6:20) for what is now the regular bit of 'shinrin yuko' (or 'forest bathing' if you're not fluent in Japanese). I hesitate between sitting on the usual bench to contemplate the ponds or wander along the Blackberry path. Then, as if quietly guided, I opt to take a different route along & up into a tunnel of trees and ferns. As I walk it gets perceptibly darker as if the undergrowth is drawing closer around me. To my left there's a sudden stirring - and there stands about ten meters away a young deer (a female). I stop. She stops. (Robert Frost, anyone?). Then catching my scent or a rustle in the leaves, she hops out of sight.
Astonished at such an encounter (yes, there are deer in these woods but you hardly ever see them) I carry on to the junction of the path with a more well-trodden one which arches back down towards the ponds. By now the moist air is starting to turn into drizzle. Then there's another stirring - again to my left. Another deer but this one's a male. I surreptitiously feel for my phone & lift it to take a picture. He & I stayed like this for a good two minutes. Each taking in the other. Then he, too, picked up a warning sign and jumped to the left. I watched assuming that was it but he remained for a couple more minutes, his head poking up above a grassy mound. Then, bored, off he went.
In his wonderful essay 'Alfresco' Merrill Gilfillan writes about the sense of being a 'witness'. It's exactly the term. Walking back I thought how this encounter might never have occurred: had I remained sitting on the bench ... had I taken the other path ... had I, for that matter, simply stayed in bed listening to the shipping forecast ...
Minutes that redefine the day.