The Deer

I stand atop the dune in the darkness of the too-early dawn. A fear as deep as time tells me to go back. I know I’ll be fine. I do this all of the time. But still. There’s lightning off shore, the waves are deafening and the wind is unrelenting. I go forward anyways. I carry a chair and a coffee and make my way to the waves by the cloud-obscured light of the moon. I unfold my chair, sit down, cover my head with my hoodie and let go.

The waves are unceasing. Incessant. Insisting. Rising and falling. Sweeping and receding with a fundamental cosmic energy. Enveloped in waves, wind and darkness, I hunker down. I shrink. And, I feel myself getting pulled back into the rhythm of the natural world and its churning. Its determination to destroy what it has created just to create what it will destroy. Its pattern of emergence and return. Like all things, I too will return. And, when I am freed of the body, this moment and this current iteration of all things, what happens to all of my attempts to make sense of what I was, what I am and what I may become?  What happens to all of the ideas, notes, journals, scribbles, doodles and the files and files of digitally recorded thoughts that I never shared with others? All of the stories in my head, what about them? When my body is pulled under will all of these stories be freed? The good. The bad. The hurtful. The painful. What about all of my memories? What about my experiences? Will my entire history be freed? What then to them? What happens to all of the tears that I was too afraid, embarrassed, and proud to cry. All of the tears that I would not let myself cry. I still have them. Reservoirs of them. What happens when they are freed? When happens to all of these things? What happens to what I was and what I am? Will they be mixed, mingled and turned over with those same things from everyone else who was and then reconfigured into the next iteration of what is to become? What is the relationship between what was and what is to what is to become? As a part of what was and what is, what is my responsibility to what is become? Am I supposed to cry these tears now?

The sun cracks the horizon.

I stand up, fold my chair up and turn away from the waves. And, as I make my way up the dunes at mile marker forty-four and fourth, I am once again humbled by the reminder of my insignificant impermanence.

A few years back (five years in fact), as I was cresting that very same dune after another early morning with the waves, I came to a startled stop. Just a few feet away, on the other side of the dune, stood a deer grazing in the tall tasseled grasses.

It slowly lifted its head and looked at me.

I looked back at it.

Neither of us flinched.

There was a mesmerizing.


Willingly mutual descent into the depths of each other’s pupils.

Separation fell away.

I was it.

It was me.

We were each other.



That was.

That is.

That would be.

All of existence.


Then there was a tugging back to form, a looking back over the shoulder return.

Its eyes filled with instinct.

My eyes filled with ego.

It stepped gingerly across the path in front of me and continued along.

I did too.

And, when I got back to the beach house, I got the message.

My step-father had died.

I did not cry. I did not get overly upset. I got solemn.

I wrote his eulogy.

I fielded phone calls from family and friends.

Kyra and Dillon kept sneaking peeks into my eyes.

I assured them that I am fine.

I was not.

I had lost someone I loved.

But I was.

Because I knew before I knew.

A deer told me.


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Thanks. – shawn


Photo by Peter Lloyd on Unsplash