Last night’s storm, with its high winds, thrashed the trees so soundly that the path to my cabin today is thick with acorns, nearly cobbling the trail. I don’t remember past years producing so many, and I filled my hands with them within a few steps. I’ve always loved acorns: the brown nuts with their nubby caps look like smooth, featureless faces wearing brown berets. Evidently most of the trees that tower over my cabin are oak, though a shagbark hickory is right outside my window and the orange and red leaves that litter the ground in autumn are largely from maple. I like the neighborhood variety, though right now, before colors show themselves, the variety is lost in the general green, and today all of them toss in unison with the wind, all of them flash equally bright when the sun glints through the clouds at intervals, making the light in the ravine look like a series of long exposure snapshots.
When I first sat down on the bench outside my cabin, careless, inattentive to anything but myself, I frightened off a young deer who was feeding in the ravine, right across from the bench. I looked up just in time to see its dappled flank, the flick of its white tail as it leaped over the crumpled barbed wire fence. Now an older doe has stepped into the ravine, somehow able to do that soundlessly, though the ravine floor is littered with fallen sticks, old leaves, tangled briers. A few minutes later the fawn I startled away re-emerges from the left and joins its mother, ducking under her haunches to nurse, its head jerking rhythmically while the mother stands patiently.
The only sound is the steady chir of crickets, a gentle background noise that wraps the silence well. A stirring of the wind joins in, swaying leaves with a sound of moving water. Occasionally, more acorns batter their way off limbs, thudding through branches, landing on the ground with a soft, shattering sound.
When I look up from words, I search for the deer and no longer can spot the doe in the foliage. The fawn, though, has crossed the damp stream bed and is now closer to me, though further to the right. Its head dips up and down, now visible, now out of sight, as it walks in the high weeds, stepping into hollows, then up, learning already the silence of its mother.