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Winter food for the deer: 'Acorns on the Forest Floor,' watercolor by Carolyn Newberger

Illuminating the Hidden Forest, Chapter 33: Deer in the dawn

By Saturday, Feb 15, 2020 Life In the Berkshires

To read the previous chapters of ‘Illuminating the Hidden Forest,’ click here.

Feb. 15, 2020

Awakening to another deep freeze of a day, Lily pokes her nose into my elbow. I’ll just go out with her in back,” I think, pulling on the fleece-lined work pants and warm layers that I keep in a basket under the corner table in the bedroom.

But through the kitchen windows, I notice the pink dawn showing through the trees, and the stillness of the leafless canopies. What harm could there be in bundling up and venturing into the forest on this rosy and peaceful morning?

So I layer Lily in a fleece coat and snap her into her coyote vest. I layer myself into my warmest long puffy coat and furry lined cap, its ear flap fastened under my chin, pull my fleece turtle neck collar up over my mouth and flip the coat hood up. Good gloves, hiking pole and crampons on boots, I’m ready to go.

To my surprise, Lily doesn’t streak back through her doggie door after doing her business in the snow, but seems ready to go herself, sniffing excitedly and letting loose with an occasional bark at nothing in particular that I can see.

We haven’t been in the woods for many days, Lily and I. The winds have been gusting and the snow has been blowing. I soon saw the wisdom of that absence in the downed limbs and needled branches littering the fresh snow. I picked my way among them, throwing them off the path when I could pry them up from their icy beds.

Then suddenly, right in front of us, five doe burst from the woods to our right, leapt across Mr. Coakley’s path and raced down the hillside toward Yokun Brook. Lily raced after them, barking in hot pursuit. Lily is no match for the deer, who soon leapt the brook and disappeared into the woods. I felt a surge of relief that they were safe, not only from my little dog, who is no threat to them, but for another season in the forest, to live their lives with only the dangers nature intends.

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