Monthly Archives: December 2017



Buck Grieving


The New Moon in Sagittarius is exact tonight at 10:30 p.m. PST and it is three days until the winter solstice; I have just enough daylight left to take my evening walk in the woods. Roger has frequently been on my mind this week, wafting in and out of my thoughts for what seems like no obvious reason at all. It might be the weather which has been rainy, grey, and foggy, very much like Big Sur in January which is where the two of us would go every year as soon as the holidays were over. As we drove down the Pacific coastline each year we gradually entered a mysterious world of gnarled trees, tufted grass, rising rivers, and the churning ocean splashing onto ancient, blackened rocks; I half expected fairies to appear, dancing in the mist. Oh, how we adored those trips! Hiking, reading, napping in the complete, smoke-curling, silence that is Big Sur winter. Those were the times in our marriage when we were the closest and each had the complete attention of the other. My heart would sing when I caught Roger relaxing in the hammock in his underwear–he very seldom truly did nothing and I felt some sense of accomplishment that I had been instrumental in his finding a place to rest. Often we found ourselves talking through some of the more difficult times we had each experienced in the previous year; one of those being the death of our best friend on New Year’s Day several years before. That year we walked up and down the coastal road and paid tribute to our dear friend in intimate whispers, trying desparately to sooth our hearts and our minds. Of all the things I miss about our lives together, these January trips to Big Sur are at the very top.

Tonight it is warm for December in Ohio, several degrees above freezing, chilly and wet. I pull on my boots, stick my phone in my pocket and head to the cross country course to settle my mind and mull over some of the emotions that have been calling to me. It is dusk and the sky is a gun metal grey with one long white cloud concealing the setting sun. Higher up where the black branches of the bare winter trees are slightly swaying against the sky there is a hint of blue, just a hint, which makes the background to this landscape seem layered like a nordic dessert—dark grey, lighter grey, blue grey and then white. It is lovely.

Slogging along on the muddy path as the sky gradually darkens I am disappointed that I have not caught a glimpse of the resident fox nor the blue heron that normally resides here, and it is then that I feel the presence of eyes upon me, another heart beating, another breath being taken by something other than myself. I stare hard into the darkening woods and right there in front of me is a handsome buck looking directly into my eyes. He is just across a little stream that leads to the creek and he is so close I can see his frosty breath leave his nostrils. I immediatlely begin cooing to him in a soothing voice and then singing my customary song to let him know it is me and that he is safe. His attention is rapt, but something is wrong. His lower lip is quivering much like a human lip does when a person is about to burst into tears. I am puzzled; he is so close and he doesn’t seem to have the slightest inclination to move. Bucks are something I don’t usually see here except in the autumn when they are searching for their mates; I have no idea why he is making himself so visable or why he is even here at all, and he is all alone.

I decide to take a few more steps along the path as if to leave him, thinking maybe that will break the spell and he will move on but after one stride I stop dead in my tracks. There, half in and half out of the stream, is a doe lying with her head on the bank, eyes open, perfectly still. She appears to be dead and the buck is standing just a few feet above her. A sharp pain sears my heart as my mind frantically searches my memory bank and lands on the day I found Roger lying still, much like the doe is now, on the floor in our home. His eyes were open just like hers with a blank expression in them that I wish I had never seen. I look back at the buck with his quivering lip and realize  that he has lost his mate, that he is stunned with grief, and that he is the same as me.  “Oh, my handsome man!  I am so so sorry!  The very same thing has happened to me!”,  I call out in the harshness of this winter landscape, this landscape that holds so much beauty and sorrow at once.




Exactly three times this week I have been privy to the sighting of one particular fox and my old heart has leapt with astonished joy each time, as if I were meeting my long lost soulmate after a somewhat storied absence.  I want to tell you he is one handsome dude with his black tuxedo markings and snow white chest; his tail alone could bring the house down with its grand bushy plumage and its staccato black tip.  Jaunty as hell, he trots proudly across the path in front of me and disappears into the woods on the other side,  playfully daring me to follow.  Yes, this fox goes about his business with sass and class and everything in me wants to know what this noble messenger has to say.

The third time I saw him I called my friend and local nature sleuth, Candy, and blabbered on and on about my new love interest.  She suggested that the coyotes must have left the area for a while and created an opportunity for the resourceful fox to set up house. Lucky us. “Let’s call him Penultimate!”, I said in my little girl voice, “Penault or Penny for short”, mistakenly thinking that penultimate must mean most ultimate, which of course the fox was.  Candy, being a good friend, laughed in agreement and we ended our call and went about our important lives.

Later that day when I had the chance to sit down at my computer and google the word penultimate I was dismayed to find that it doesn’t mean most ultimate at all!  Seeing as how Candy is an English professor and continually whips my ass, and my brother’s ass, and my late husband’s ass,  in Scrabble, I knew she had known the correct meaning all along, even when I exuberantly blurted out my chosen name for the fox.  As in  similar instances with Candy, mainly when playing Scrabble, when I have been vocabulary-challenged I usually resort to my ‘but I am a visual artist’ defense.  This usually invokes a fairly big scoff from her, but this time she had let me get away with misusing a word and had said nothing.

The real definition of penultimate is next to last which is something of a conundrum if Candy knew at the time and agreed to the fox’s name.  Since she is not normally prone to humoring me and is usually adamant about the correct pronunciation, spelling, meaning, etc., of all words, I am becoming rather suspect of her fox-like cleverness.  Phenomenally effective shapeshifters and incredibly adaptable, the fox beckons us to not make too many waves but rather, adapt to our surroundings, blend into it, and use our surroundings (and circumstances) to our advantage.  Is this what Candy is up to?  Is it some kind of covert Scrabble strategy?  And If by chance she thinks next to last is a good name for our fox, then what cunning secret could she and he be hiding?

I know you may be thinking that I am over thinking all of this but one can never be too careful when fox is around.  Although he has a reputation as a trickster in many myths, make no mistake about it, fox does not joke around when executing clever strategies. Maybe the next time I see him it will be the last or maybe he and Candy are just pranking me.  Any way you look at it I win because I saw the fox and he was penultimate to me.