16 September, 2003

Monday, 15 September

Mist and Magic

I get a call I am not expecting: Ginny. Can you be ready to go soon? She wants to batten down the Mime Camp, in preparation for the coming hurricane. She can’t go tomorrow; classes from ten to ten. I find out more: Spencer needs to get the Hack and Slash Tee shirts covered, and he left open the windows of his trailer. Okay. We’ll go now, in the dark, though it’s raining. Pack up the kids, dressed in raingear, though the intent is for them to stay in the truck. On the way down, the storm churns all around us. The truck hydroplanes while I am distracted watching white rivers of lightning stream across the bubbling grey field. My odometer turns over, clocking two hundred thousand miles. The site is still, quiet, hushed and waiting. The rain has moved on. We see no other people, though their evidence is everywhere. Cars are parked in the pub, in front of booths onsite. I see the woman who owns the Q Heart clothing shop has things spread out in her booth, a light on them as though she is creating something, replenishing her stock. I’m pleased at the notion her sales have been good enough to warrant this effort.

We make what preparations we can, hoping for the best, finish the job the storm has started of collapsing the tent, tossing stilts atop plastic bins, wrapping the whole thing with a tarp and weighing the tarp down with a ladder. It’s dark, everything is wet, Ginny holds the flashlight with one hand and the center of the tent with the other, so I have a little room to work. We tie down the tarp covering the tee shirt box, close the stage door and head out. I try knocking on Sharon and Randy’s door, to invite them to pack up the cats and hole up at my house, but I get no answer. I will call them instead, or e-mail an invitation.

Out the gate again, across the empty parking lot. My headlights pick up mist and a reflection of eyes. Ah! Magic in the dampened evening: a doe and her twin fawns are grazing in the field beside the road. We stop, wait for the deer to accustom themselves to our light, our watching. I tell the children that by observing the deer, we are changing their behavior. Ginny snickers. The children wonder how the deer are different. I tell them that the very fact that they are being watched makes them act in a different way, but since we are looking at them, we don’t, can’t, know how. They chew on this in silence for awhile, which was my goal.

One of the fawns stays very close to its mother. The other wanders further afield. I try to keep both the stray and the mother-child pair in my headlights, but cannot. Ginny shines the flashlight at the wanderer. We notice the doe noticing that her second baby is not nearby. We wonder how, if, she calls to it to make it come closer. Perhaps she doesn’t, for it does not come closer. We watch, speaking in hushed, awed tones, until headlights come behind us. We pull away slowly, carefully. The deer do not startle. There is magic in the night.

And this, this, would it not have been enough? And yet, as we drive past the Crownsville Hospital Compound, both children say variations of the Ah! Oh! sound that indicates something wonderous. What? "More deer," they articulate. It's a magical night. I turn the car around. Indeed, there are more deer, four of them clustered round a tree, looking like holiday statuary. These we also watch, two adults and two fawns, perhaps a family. One young one bounds away, startled by something that we, and the other three deer, did not see or hear. A car moves around me. I had not noticed it behind me, entranced as I was with my family inside, and the wild family outside. Another car approaches from the opposite direction, bearing down on us. The deer scatter, leaping away into a nearby field. "Follow them, " Alaina pleads. I do. We see one of the fawns, but the others have melted into the shadows of surrounding trees, vanished like the subtle, magical fairy creatures they are.

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