I’m a light sleeper. The slightest noise wakes me up. A disturbing dream opens my eyes wide. My dogs, roaming through the house in a never-ending search for bad guys (or food left on the kitchen counter) brings me back to life.
These days, I wake up in the middle of the night more than I’d care to admit. I sometimes stumble downstairs, turn on the TV and watch some mindless movie I’ve already seen forty-eight times before I lulling myself back to sleep. Then I mosey back upstairs to pillow my head before nodding off.
That’s what happened the other night. About 1:15, I woke up, my mind racing a thousand miles a minute (no doubt making up for how slow it crawls during the daytime). As usual, my two dogs, Peanut and Grace followed me downstairs. I flipped on a DVR recording of the HBO show, “Network News,” and settled back to settle down.
About twenty minutes into the show, Peanut let out a fierce bark from the front of the house. Then another. I figured the neighbors were coming home late or someone was walking the street, trying to calm their own racing mind, so I quietly scolded her. I went to the front window and looked out on an umbrella of yellow from the streetlight at the edge of my front yard. Four deer marched cautiously, majestically up the street. Then, another came out of the shadows, followed by two more. Peanut barked again, and they all froze, statue-like in the darkness.
I live in Roswell, a busy suburb of Atlanta and a growing city of about 100,000 people. This area grew so fast that it literally surrounded large pockets of wildlife. In addition, the city wisely built a large greenway that meanders through the communities on the northside, in which people bike and hike and jog. Animals live there, too. From time to time deer wander down our way, probably looking for the luscious green grass of golf courses, three of which lie within a three mile radius of my house. I’ve seen deer before, but it is rare.
This herd, if you can call it that, was incredible. One small deer lay down on the grass in the yard across the street. The largest one stood majestically under the street lamp, staring in my direction, like a sentry. I couldn’t find my camera so I grabbed my iPad Mini, creaked open the door and failed in my attempt to snap their picture. The creaking sound chased a couple of deer back in the direction they had come. Others ran the opposite way. But the big deer stood resolutely staring my way. Eventually it slowly turned and marched back into the darkness to retrieve the two who had gone back.
There was something almost mystical about the encounter. The rare creatures, beautiful in their natural state, oblivious to me hidden by glass and wood 75 feet away, strode into my life at precisely the right moment. If I’d stayed in bed a few minutes longer or awoken a few minutes sooner, I would have missed them. If the dogs had not gone to the front window, we never would have known. Had the deer chosen a different path or a different time, I would not have seen them at all.
Mystery seems sometimes more contingent upon timing than anything. It startles and surprises us, as unexpected, but not unwelcome.
And I wonder, how often I miss the mystical because the timing wasn’t right, or I looked the other way, or I kept my eyes closed just a little longer.
Stay awake for the mystical and majestic. It’s so worth it.
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