In the shadows

I’ve been in the house all day, a rainy day so I’m not complaining – cozy and warm and dry. But by 5:30, it’s time to bust out and get a breath of fresh air. I vowed I would spend some time outdoors everyday anyway – good for my head, mostly.

I think of these must-get-out-of-the-house walks as dog walks, without a dog. When I had a dog, this was one of the best things about her – she got me out of the house every day, twice a day, for at the very least a walk around the block. And I’d see all the other dog walkers out there. We all had a purpose. But for those of us without dogs, why not walk by ourselves? I am taking myself for a walk.

I wear my gloves and hat for the first time this season. It’s cool, but in a nice way. The leaves are wet, but not sopping. It’s lovely out, really, lovelier with every step. Since it’s already dark, I avoid Sligo Creek Park, several blocks away, and just walk the neighborhood. But I do decide to get off the sidewalk for a minute and take the little path into little Forest Park, a corner green space with plenty of shrubbery and plantings and trees around a little playground and picnic area.

I wonder if it is officially closed after dark. I decide I don’t care. Uncharacteristically (in case you are reading this from the hereafter, Mom) I don’t even put my urban radar up, it doesn’t occur to me that there might be someone lurking in the shadows. Even though, this close to the city, there certainly could be. Even though there was a carjacking just two blocks away last summer. La-la-la, I’m on my evening walk. Without a dog.

And there, just inside the park, is a movement in the dark. There’s the sharp intake of breath. I’m startled. I look up.

And just 10 feet from me stands a big buck, complete with many-pointed rack. Staring.

Wow, you startled me, I tell him. He just looks. Where are your peeps? I say. Because he doesn’t care how corny it is to say that, “peeps,” and he doesn’t care that he has no peeps anyway, just other deer. But there aren’t even any does around, or at least I can’t see them. Too many shadows.

I stand there in Forest Park with this buck, taking him in, standing so casual and so near. There is no one else around. Only us animals. And here, at the end of my day, I am deeply connected to the natural world in an entirely unexpected way.

Back on the sidewalk, I take the long way home.


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