I knew dawn, when it finally broke, would be anemic and gray – little help in driving the cold from the house. Too bad, I thought. I needed all the help I could get. The sun hadn’t cleared the mountain yet, but already I was behind: behind on the errands, the house chores, the wrapping, the shopping, the mailing, the office work, the correspondence, “the list”. And my kid pouring the fire’s hard-won heat through the front door wasn’t helping.
“Hey, whatcha doin bud?” I asked, annoyed.
“Watchin” he said, unperturbed.
It was the shortest day of the year. I had even less than the standard not enough time, to do more than the usual too much stuff. I hadn’t been hunting in a couple of weeks, and this weekend was looking like another lost cause. Weren’t the holidays supposed to be restorative? What’s so relaxing about playing catch-up? And what exactly was I trying to catch anyway? Whatever it was, I didn’t need a toddler dragging his feet and fighting me at every turn.
“Watching what, son?” I challenged, scanning the cluttered floor for his AWOL left shoe.
“Deer” he said. “They look cold. Do you think they’re cold Dada?”
I glanced at the thermometer on my way to the door… 2 degrees. “I bet they are” I said. Then, noticing the clock, added “You will be too if you don’t put your socks on before we leave.”
“Look Dada, he’s playing in the snow!” said Everett, more in tune with the deers’ serenenity than my urgency.
“Yep, she’s digging for food” I said squatting behind him, ready to wrestle his coat on.
“Silly deer! I like playing in the snow too” he said, leaning his warm back into my chest. “Um, Dada, do the deer have to go?”
“No, I don’t think so” I said, thrown by the question and unsure of what he was asking. “They just need to eat and stay warm”.
“Let’s give them food” said Everett.
“No, if we fed them, they’d forget how to be deer.”
“Yeah… and that would be bad… cause… um… because then they’d have to go.” he said, either to me or to himself. Maybe neither. “I like for them to be deer”.
I settled to the floor behind him. As we looked on, the first rays of sunlight crept over the horizon, painting the scene in pinks and golds. In the young light the deer and their world seemed warmer – still cold, but manageable; hard but inevitable.
“I just want to watch until they run off. OK Dada? Then I’ll get ready. Promise.”
“Ok son. That sounds great.” I said, reaching for my coffee. I still had plenty to do, but doing no longer seemed so important. I had time. Maybe a little watching was just the thing.