Nuremburg, Germany, 2012.
It’s late July and I am on a European river cruise with two friends. I like cruises but hat boring tour guides, so I usually go off on my own whenever I’m visiting some place new. Today at 6 AM I carefully make my way down the gang-plank and begin walking along the canal which links Neuremburg to the Main and Danube Rivers.
Although there is only the occasional cyclist at this early hour, I skip the bike path and opt for one of the dirt paths which radiate away from the bike lanes. I take one of them and meander toward a forest, lush and still. It’s mostly dark, though the tall evergreens are letting in some light already. Scrub brush grows up along the path and areas of sparce green grass are spaced among the groves of trees.
On my left, just ten minutes into my walk I see a figure standing still in a field maybe seventy feet from me. It’s a lone deer. She appears mature though smaller than individuals of our white-tailed species. She’s hiding from me right out in the open. She is sure that I won’t notice her. (I decide it’s a “she” simply because this deer has no antlers. I actually hope she’s a she.) Her long ears are erect and turned in my direction and her fur is dark grey and the morning light is just touching her head and haunches. Her large eyes are glistening and steady as they regard me.
The deer is a microcosm for me. I look at her for who she is and she looks at me for who I am. In that mystery, I find God. Who says He can’t He come to me in the glance of a deer, in red-bird song in mid-winter or in a wild orchid under a sycamore tree in April?
We look at one another for some minutes. No one else is around. It’s very quiet. I make a move to continue down the dirt path and instantly the deer bounds once, twice and enters the darkness of the thick forest.
This is why I go places, often by myself. I think about how miraculous it is that wild deer still survive here in Bavaria after industrialization, two world wars and extensive habitat destruction. This European deer is a new species for me, the Western Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus).
Our guide this morning will miss seeing this deer and so will the rest of our tour group. Maybe they wouldn’t care to experience a wild deer in a Bavarian Forest.
If I do not see anything else on this journey that is new, I will remember this morning, and the lone deer outside of Neuremberg Germany on a hot summer morning in July.