Yesterday Leah found a dead fawn on our driveway, at nearly the farthest point from the house. She was riding, and came down to the house to get me. I walked along beside her and we discussed the likelihood that someone coming to or leaving the house had struck the fawn with their car. The creature was tiny, scarcely larger than a small dog. There were no signs that it had been struck. Its fur, the lovely white-spotted fur of the newborn, was still slick in several places, as if its mother had not completed licking away the birth fluids. It only took a moment of looking around at the tall grass lining the drive to spot a large area where the grass was crushed and matted, indicating that the doe had struggled here to deliver her fawn. But what happened then is anybody’s guess.
The only sign of trauma on the dead animal was a bloodied muzzle, but that appeared to be more the work of an opportunistic scavenger than a predator. Black flies already swarmed the corpse. My instinct was to ascribe the death to natural causes.
‘It’s our property,’ Leah insisted, ‘we have to do something with it.’ We, meaning, of course, me. I picked it up by the hooves, so petite that all four fit in the grip of one hand. Its weight was minimal, but its head swung loosely as I walked, the flies swirling off in angry clouds around my legs. I walked into the deep grass, about fifty paces off the drive, and tossed the corpse under a juniper tree. Likely it will be food for some of the same predators who had already been at it.
This is, I’m guessing, the sort of thing I’m expected to get used to, living in the country. But I don’t know. I’m pretty old now, perhaps too old to become inured to the casual death of such a beautiful animal. Even this morning I still feel the small hooves in my hand, the sloshing dead weight swaying as I walked. I think its wrong to be indifferent about that.
We had some snowy days this past winter, after a few winters of very little snow. Figures, since deep snow was exactly what I dreaded most. I hadn’t made any provision for plowing snow; I don’t like to purchase expensive equipment before I’m sure it will be needed. We awoke one morning to find it impossible to get out of our drive and onto the road. The only results of shoveling like mad for a few hours were a sore back and a few insignificant, narrow paths in the snow. I think I’ll be needing that snow plow.
Here in late spring I find all of the areas of our property that are not still wooded covered in waist high grass. I have mowed out a large ‘lawn,’ but the rest is undisturbed. Having come so recently from the suburbs, I can’t escape the feeling that this is an encroachment, something I should, but will never be able to, control. I need to get used to the idea that in some places on earth, grass grows without the intervention of power mowers and weed eaters.
I’m sure I’ll have similar qualms in autumn, when the leaves in their stupendous abundance begin to fall. I’ll rake and blow them off of the sidewalks and the patio, back to some acceptable perimeter that defines our yard, and then spend hours glaring out windows at the piles, silently challenging them, inwardly troubling myself for not doing something about the leaves.
Each season out here presents something I’ll need to get used to, whether it’s the snow of winter, leaves of autumn, or summer’s stunning armadas of flying insects. All of these things I believe I can come to assimilate into my lifestyle, to put up with, or ignore, or deal with on some level, whether it’s with better equipment or a more stoic outlook.
But the cycles of life and death–especially when they materialize in the untimely death of a newborn animal–are something that will always mystify and sadden me, and that’s as it should be. This is what makes us human no matter where we are, whether we are in the most sterile suburb scrubbed of anything natural except Bradford Pear trees and banks of mulched geraniums, or deep in the wild, surrounded by uncontrollable vegetation. I know I should have buried the fawn. I just didn’t feel up to it, and now it’s too late.