There was a deer in the backyard this morning. Actually it was in the neighbor's yard (we're not fenced in here), but I spotted it when I was letting the dog in at the ungodly hour of 5:45 AM. She stayed around for quite a while, even after she saw me.
This is when I wish I had ordered the camera that I'm going to get with my AMEX points, even though I am notoriously bad at catching these moments.
Like the time in Alaska when Piper and I were out hiking at 10:30 at night (remember it stays light in Alaska in the Summer) when I spot a large hare standing at attention just off the trail. I start chatting inanely about the fact that it's the largest rabbit I think I've ever seen, when we turn a corner and are confronted by a grey lynx on the trail about ten feet ahead of us. We stare at it and it stares at us, and of course, we need a picture. Piper fumbles for the camera, which, no surprise, is at the bottom of the backpack. The cat's been standing there at least five minutes, but as soon as the camera is unearthed, the lynx takes off. The next day we speak to a Denali Park guide who tells us that in the 13 years he's been coming to Alaska to work in the summers, he's never seen a lynx. It is apparently quite rare to see them and a picture would have really been something.
There's something about a close encounter with wildlife that I find incredibly soothing. It's like being given a gift or sent a message that's open to interpretation, but is generally benign. These visits are as close as I ever expect to get to an encounter with God. Maybe that's why I can never get a picture.
About ten years ago, I was at a real low point in life - frustrating job, co-workers I didn't respect, flailing about for direction in life and career - it was bad. On an unseasonably warm day in February, Piper and I decided to take a walk and headed for a pier we had never been to. When we got there, we noticed a group of people clustered around talking. We got closer and realized they were looking at a Harbor seal lying in the parking lot. Of course, I thought the worst, but when I approached, I found her very much alive and peacefully sunning herself. She picked her head up and looked straight at me, my heart just melted. Harbor seals are actually quite common here, but this was the first I had ever seen one, and the closest I ever got.
I did not have my camera with me but we walked home and I drove back down with the camera hoping she'd still be in that spot. She wasn't, but had inched her way back down the boat ramp from which she had come and was splashing about in the harbor. I took a few pictures, but they never came out.
I found a new job in the midst of the Beanie Baby craze. On my desk at the new office, along with the other toys that we techno-types seem to collect, I put a harbor seal Beanie to remind me of those moments of peace.