Growing up in a small town we had to find things to do during the summer. We use to ride our bikes on the deer trails along the creek. We would spend hours back in there, exploring, skinny dipping, camping out. A few of us even had our first beers, smoked our first cigarette, even got our first buzz off some shitty weed. We skipped school, hid out from our parents and friends, and threw rocks at the alligator gars floating peacefully.
One summer, around the time in junior high school, I was the target of my peers. Suddenly I wasn’t wanted in our group of friends. I never asked but didn’t really care much. There were others in the neighborhood to hang out with. After that summer I never got close to anyone. There were no bonds with anyone. Gradually, doing things by myself was more fun. I did what I wanted for however long I wanted. One thing I did a lot of was ride alone on the trails. I would catch tadpoles by hand, dig out softshell turtles who’s bite hurt like a hammer crushing your finger. I was even bitten by a hellgrammite.
I got to know the trails so good I would watch my old friends walk or ride by. Even my little brother and his friend walked right under a tree I sat in. They didn’t even see me. Sitting quietly in the woods listening to the sounds, watching the trees, the animals, the insects. I felt like I was supposed to know this. But it also felt like I was being studied. I would get the feeling something was always near me, watching every time I went down there. I was being graded or analyzed on my progress of being one with nature.
Evening was coming up and this time I didn’t want to build a fire. It was still light out so I walked my bike along the trail. No hurry to get back home even if it got dark. I was being followed, I could feel it. Stopping, looking back through the woods, there was nothing. I turned to keep going and there was a Deer. It was huge, but I’ve never seen one up until this point. He stood directly in front of me, face to face. Maybe three feet apart. We stared each other down, eye to eye. My heart was racing, sweat pouring off my forehead burning my eyes. I wasn’t scared and he didn’t seem to be, either. His eyes looked away from mine but he was still looking, like he was sizing me up. From his high alert stance and gripping stare he suddenly just lowered his head and made a grunt/snorting sound. Slowly He turned sideways backing off the trail but not taking his gaze off me. He was letting me pass. Had I won? Did he accept me as one in the wild? Has he been watching me all this time? I felt accepted by the nature I embraced so much at that time of my life.