It has been a long cold winter. Last year on this date, I hosted a birthday party on the deck. This year it is below thirty at dawn, and I doubt it will be ever again be warm enough to sit outside. So I cozy up at the window with my morning coffee, staring at the mountains. A movement below catches my eye. A doe cautiously leaves the surrounding woods where she was invisible a second ago. In shades of brown, tan and cream, she blends in with the winter grass matted down in the clearing below my perch. She nibbles new shoots and frequently lifts her head toward the birds at the feeders. Our husky lies high on the hill, keeping her legs warm underneath her, a tail covering her nose. She has no intention of a futile chase.
Enter stage right another doe, followed by a yearling. The only bright color on them is the underside of their tails which I have seen far ahead of an optimistic dog. This morning, they detect no threat. We encouraged their winter visits with a salt lick and liberally scattered corn, but this is their first appearance in a long time. This is probably a reconnaissance mission to check out our orchard. The fruit trees already have blooms.
Last year the deer would sneak in at first light to confiscate our apples and pears and strip the grapevines. This year is a new game. A fourth deer comes on stage and sniffs at our eight foot mesh fence that surrounds the orchard and the garden where they dined on lettuce and beans last summer. The flapping corner of white plastic covering newly planted potatoes, carrots and onions only gets brief notice. She leisurely scratches an ear with a back foot and exits stage right. Her friends have already disappeared into the woods. Nothing left to watch but ten fat squirrels, seven doves, five noisy woodpeckers, three finches and a female cardinal in a pear tree.
And wait for spring.