June 17

I lived in one foster home at the edge of the woods and sometimes deer would appear out of the trees: appear out of nothing, like ghosts.

I wanted to be friends, so I stole bread from the kitchen and broke it and made trails from the edge of the trees all the way up to the house and then I would sit on the lawn and wait, sometimes until it got dark and the stars came out and someone yelled at me to come inside.

But sometimes they came, like magic (how could it not be magic—one moment something is not there and the next moment it is, as if in answer to the deepest wish of your heart? What else could magic possibly be? I wanted to see deer and I stared all day at trees: trunk and twig and root and shadow until finally, until suddenly, they came: my magic deer).

I was only four. I thought they glided over the smooth lawn, dipping their heads to eat the bread (my bread! My bread that I had broken with my own hands and set with deepest reverence on the grass for them to eat, and as I watched them eat it I trembled and shook for how gracefully and with what tenderness they accepted my offering).

I wanted to be friends.

They came: two or three or four. Do I remember that one of them came close to me, and lowered her head and breathed on my face, and that I reached up and brushed her black-leather-damp-nose with my pink-cold fingers before all of them vanished into the trees?

I have carried the memory of that sweet-warm-wind washing down over my face almost all my life.

Is it a real memory, or is it just what I wanted to happen with such deep wanting that I imagined it until it became a real event in my mind?

And if that really happened, what’s to stop me from telling you that I climbed up on the back of that great mama deer who came to find me, my bare toes gripping her rib bones, and that she carried me off into the woods and raised me like her own fawn: left me sleeping safely for hours in nests of ferns and grasses, and fed me leaves and berries, and taught me how to step silently through the forest, how to appear and disappear like a ghost?

Because I wished with all my heart for that, too.

But I remember that I waited at the edge of the trees day and night to see the deer. And I remember that they came.

Danielle ShullComment