This morning, on the way to get my hair cut, I saw a dead deer on the side of the road. Its dark brown eyes were filmy. She was a doe and had already stiffened. Pieces of her were splattered, splintered, and smeared across the road. In the rearview mirror I saw broken glass, plastic grille fragments, and her two front legs bent at stomach-churning angles. That heap was once a living thing, I thought.
Here in Connecticut, we see dead deer on the side of the road all the time. But this winter, I’ve thought a lot about the deer out there in the woods behind the house. I’ve watched our dogs snooze away the winter in front of the wood stove. Genetically encoded dog DNA compels them to circle their beds before plopping down. Their wild ancestors flattened the grass by circling around it a few times before settling down. They were creating a safe and comfortable nest. Hunkered down under a canopy of evergreens, I suppose the deer do the same. But it’s been such a brutal winter. Even if they’ve been able to stay warm, what have they eaten? How much of their fat stores have been burned as they trudge through three feet of snow looking for food in the bitter cold? On the nights the thermometer dips below zero, I think about them out there in the same absurd way I think about people in coffins, and how cold they must be.
The recent thaw may have driven the doe out to forage for food. If only she could have made it a few more weeks. By late April, Connecticut comes back to life and trees start budding. Chickadees, blue jays, and nuthatches gossip as they build their nests. The days are much warmer. The woods begin their slow costume change from a gown of winter frost that blinds the eyes to the wispy greens of spring.
The mangled deer was still there on the return trip home from my hair cut. When I drove by the first time I noticed, but didn’t want to think about it – large in the belly, she was heavy with fawn.
How ironic that it’s the first day of spring. Life ends. Life begins.
Velya Jancz-Urban is the author of ACQUIESCENCE, published by Second Wind Publishing. Visit her at: http://www.acquiescencethebook.com. Her entertainingly informative presentation, The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife, is a result of the research completed for ACQUIESCENCE.