a small span of safety

There was something odd about the view out our kitchen windows this morning. It’s funny what you notice even when you don’t think you’re noticing anything. I look out that window several times a day, but I didn’t think I was ever really seeing what was there.
Apparently I was, because this morning I eventually realized that there were large mounds where there weren’t any yesterday — various sizes, the color of winter earth, still as stone, embedded in the glistening snow.
And then one moved.
And then another.
Eight in all, the herd of deer rose, one by one, and slowly left our property, stopping still in unison every now and then to listen.
Three miles down the road is hunters’ territory, but the deer know that they won’t be hurt here. After all, didn’t I let them eat from my meager garden all summer?
If had a young child here, maybe I would have said, “Look, Santa’s reindeer are going to meet him and Rudolph at the North Pole. Look there are all eight of them.”
If the child were my five-year old grandson, no doubt he would have said, “But they don’t have any antlers.”
And I might have said, “Well, maybe they put them on when they get to Santa’s.”
Or maybe I would have just said, “Look at the herd of deer — a whole family, with fathers and mothers and children. They are looking for a safe place, and they stopped here for a while because they know it’s safe and we won’t hurt them. Now let’s go put out some food for the birds.”
And when the deer were finally out of sight, I put out some food for the birds.