The rain began softly as I sat in the gazebo, and the patterings on the roof and the swaying of the ferns were restful and clean, but then the wind picked up and the rain drilled down, accompanied by growlings and jagged currents in the eastern sky, and then it lashed over the railings, peppering me with mist, so I went inside with my coffee to wait it out.
After the clouds billowed through, I walked to my cabin on a sopped, muddy trail, roots washed clean and gleaming, moss spongy and vividly green.Walking up to my cabin door, I startled a deer in the ravine, and she bounded up the far bank, snapping twigs and shaking down showers from the leaf canopy before she halted, wide eyed and limber, to look directly at me. We held the gaze between us, but I didn’t have the luck of exchanging brains, as Annie Dillard claims she did once with a weasel. We remained separated, gulfed by the ravine between us as well as our different skins. Even after I walked into the cabin and shut the door behind me, though, she remained transfixed, her face moving parallel to mine. Through the glass of my floor to ceiling window, though, I re-established our stare, this time using binoculars to bring her closer. Through the lenses, I could nearly see her eyelashes over full brown moons. Her head seemed impossibly dainty atop a slender neck, her graceful ears tipped back, alert to danger, but her eyes did not wax or wane. At precisely the same angle and level as mine, hidden behind the glasses, her eyes locked with mine, and this time an invisible strand spun itself out across the ravine to tether us together. Dizzy from the magnified vision of the lenses, I felt slung out on one end of that strand, orbiting her moons without moving an inch and never losing eye contact.
I won the stare down, not from strength of will as much as from her eventual disinterest. She only scrutinizes me as a possible danger, and once she is convinced that I pose no threat, she releases me from her attention. I, on the other hand, am bound to her by curiosity, a thrill of otherness, an admiration of her grace and fleetness, and I cannot yet turn my eyes away. Only when she turns her head and steps gingerly through the woods, her forelegs unleashing the shower that every blade of grass and seedling holds in cupped frond, must I drop the filament that connects us and return to solitary human existence.