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Tuesday, 23 March 2010



File:Odocoileus hemionus 5531.JPG

Some things remain true, as creation labours on. Sky's still up -- no, it's all around us. Or is that just fog, all colours perpetually dissolving, in it? Atmosphere too dissolving, then re-forming, all around, yet seldom seen, never quite touched. Just hanging there, this veil, ambient, bathing us. And then beyond, the bright half moon appears suddenly over the Bay, out of a deep blue-black night sky.

Days. An uncertain relation to time. And everything.

This atmosphere, transparent medium of souls. Carrier of the mystery, conduit for the dead to reach out and not quite touch us. Containing invisible particles, blown how many thousands of miles. Medium in which we are continually immersed, indispensable agency, instrument to the moment-by-moment maintenance of these awkward, unwieldy lives. A layer of gas which extends above the planet, following the global curvature. Sometimes producing a vaulted impression, made visible by stacked layers of cloud. A veritable ceiling sloping away in all directions around us, right on out to the horizon and beyond, over the ocean, where night starts falling. And never stops.

Another night, slowly scale the hill to where the view opens out over the Bay, distant glittering lights. Some of them perhaps moving, or is it just my eyes. One forty-five in the morning, Kensington Village. A soundless envelope, the emanation of rich people sleeping. Two large deer, full grown, appear, stock still, in the middle of the road. I pause. They pause. And leap the low metal road divider. And are gone. Into thin air, into the atmosphere.

File:The Oakland Bay Bridge.jpg

Odocoileus hemionus columbianus: Columbian Black-tailed Deer, Coast Deer female in fog: photo by Walter Siegmund, 2008
San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge: photo by Nadia Prigoda, 2003


Curtis Roberts said...

I love the number of deer photos that have appeared on Beyond the Pale over the past couple of days. What you wrote about them, that’s what they do. Live close to them long enough and they can become great friends; they want to. Tuxedo Park, NY, where we lived for a long time, was called by the New York Times “ground zero” for the supposed “deer overpopulation” problem in the northeast, stemming from the introduction of a herd of tame ornamental deer into the Park in 1886, when it was established by Pierre Lorillard, Jr. It was our big local political issue for 20 years – the deer people (about half the Park when we arrived) against the ornamental gardeners, who weren’t comfortable with the stewardship responsibilities that became theirs when they moved into the woods. Eventually, the customary Cornell University put-up job environmental study was commissioned by the Village trustees in power at the time (that’s what happens in New York State, at least) and the trustees and their “expert sharpshooters” “executed against plan” (literally). Now we have very few deer, far less beauty and no soul. Our personal deer was a remarkable matriarch animal named DeDe, who took wondrous care of her family. We knew her for years and she came to us for feeding and company. Recently, I got into an online hassle with students at the college I attended about a heartless editorial cartoon they ran in their online newspaper concerning a deer cull just held at the school, which was supported by the same sort of put-up job environmental study. In a short, polite letter to the editor, I criticized the cartoon and asked what was on their minds? Insulting letters flooded in (most of them anonymous or pseudonymous) and I quickly acquired notoriety and the mantle of “worst person in the world”. The kids there loved the cull and I had to face the fact that things had changed.

leigh tuplin said...

I will return to reread this more than once! It has, well, everything.

I love - 'A soundless envelope'. That is exactly true.

And much kudos to CR for his comment.

Anonymous said...

The photograph is simply wonderful :)

I found you on Accredited Online's "100 Best Poetry Blogs." I look forward to visiting your site more :)

TC said...

Welcome B.

And many thanks Leigh. Yes, I too appreciate Curtis's report. Rings curiously familiar -- though maybe not so curiously, as it seems there are quite a few people who appear to somehow think of deer an obstacle to the grand march of... is it civilization?

In this neighbourhood there was for a long time a sizeable deer population, actually stable in that they had a small impromptu wilderness preserve on the site of a several-acre fenced in bit of fallow land let gone to seed by an absentee landlord, a Chinese fundamentalist church. The property was acquired about ten years ago by a different, more "progressive" (?) sort of religious organization, however, and despite advance avowals to the contrary to assuage the neighbourhood deer lovers, it soon enough became a case of paving paradise to put up a parking lot. The deer pack was dispossessed and dispersed. Since then they wander up and down from the hills, coming down at night, especially in dry periods, for a bit of hydration. They get fluids from rose bushes, avocado trees -- they know where to find a drink. And of course there are owners of rose bushes and avocado trees who don't like this. So late at night, when traffic calms out front on the freeway feeder, it is not uncommon to see the deer moving -- very tentatively. Watching out and listening.

There are now and then nocturnal encounters... extremely affecting, in every case. The touch of another, vanishing world. An elegiac feeling, and sad.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful view of the world around. I felt completely identified with your experience of standing still and watching and analizing the magic that lies in the perfection of the physical phenomena that gives shape to our environment. This kind of perception is what turns an observer into a poet. Your words took me there. I felt the cool air of the night and the moonligth bathing me. I breathed in. I looked up and found a sky full of diamonds. And I watched the deer watch me.

I just loved it =)

TC said...

Thank you dear Lucy.

For once I have wandered above and away from the downtown streets, and outside the human "pale" a bit.

It's still the city, and hardly as pristine as your Patagonia, but a reflective moment is always beneficial to the spirit.



Beautiful meditation on the nature of things -- "days. An uncertain relation to time. And everything." -- into which "two large deer" suddenly 'appear' (in Berkeley! in the poem!) . . . and then "are gone, into thin air, into the atmosphere." Maybe something here will resonate ---


grey light coming into sky above blackness
of ridge, shadowed green leaves on branch
in foreground, waves sounding in channel

arrived at by way of object,
comes back to phenomena

of various kinds, described,
likewise in this shadow

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
slope of sandstone cliff across from it


ps. yes that moon's been up there these last nights, deer walking around in the field across the fence, and also making their nocturnal raids into the yard to eat things they like (nasturtium leaves all gone, geranium leaves half gone). I'm heading up into that "veritable ceiling sloping away in all directions today -- flying off to New York (what about the channel?).

TC said...


Happy voyaging into that cloudless blue sky (though, now that you've vanished into it, clouding over here, steely grey, getting ready to rain...)

Good to know "your" deer will be nourished in your absence. Hopefully the flow in the channels will continue. But we -- of course -- will miss your generous daily provision of light!

~otto~ said...


TC said...

Many thanks, O. Moment by moment we go...

Curtis Faville said...

We live about a half mile northwest of Kensington Village, and the deer sightings here are legion.

Once, about 20 years ago, a whole family decided to spend the evening in our back yard--Buck, Doe, and three little fawns stretched out under the back hedges in the obscure light of 4 AM.

They're voracious, so unless you don't care about your shrubs and flowering plants, you have to fence them in.

Apparently, as I've heard, deer can leap over 9 foot fences, though I've never seen this.

Early commuters setting out at 5:30 or 6 have to be careful not to run into groups of three or four foraging.

On warm Spring or early Summer nights, we get the occasional skunk wandering across the yard. Even less frequently, raccoons. The proximity of Tilden Park surely accounts for this, in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood. Deer actually need very little cover. Deer hunters tell me the best places are scrubland in foothills, they really don't prefer heavy forests.

In another 10,000 years, maybe they'll be domesticated pets.

TC said...


Perhaps it's the fact that they are not yet domesticated and thus retain their otherness and distance that makes each surprising encounter with them stand out from one's daily routine experience of city life.

leigh tuplin said...

Tom, it's amazing to me how someone, when unexpectedly coming across a deer, or the other way round, and seeing into its eyes, doesn't immediately feel a humbling sense of beauty.

TC said...


It is amazing to me as well. But alas there are many who regard them as nuisances and worse. There are even, of course, many who would still shoot them for "sport", and as a frustrated self-demonstration of power. Humility is not a salient virtue in dying empires, it seems; more common is the manifestation of the last futile spasm of the attempt to control and overcome nature. You will recall the vice presidential candidate who when in conversation with a "faux Sarkozy" in a French "comedy" show interview, seemed to accept without suspicion of irony the modest proposal that these two great figures of state should go elk shooting from a helicopter in Alaska. Sometimes no truth hurts worse than the sharp wincing pain that comes with the revelation that beauty in otherness is perceived as somehow an enemy in a society that requires fear and adrenalin and violence to sustain itself.

leigh tuplin said...

That 'faux Sarkozy' incident does illustrate the point rather well.

We don't have the issue of deer hunting over here, but as you will know, albeit to a lesser extent due to its supposed illegality now (though it does still go on) we do have the upper class twittery chasing our beautiful foxes, under the false umbrella of necessary 'control'. Just another case of humans stamping the authority of self across the land.

Melissa said...

I return to this again and again, and at night wander about looking for your two deer with questions to ask-

TC said...

Ah, Melissa, if only we could speak their language...