Taylor Ho Bynum

*Photo by Peter Gannushkin

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Djerassi Diary (Day 3)

I startled a deer while walking in the woods. It bounded out of the underbrush, but it did not run away completely. It stopped, from a safe distance looked me over.

I stayed very still so it could get used to me. (A doe? A fawn? I’m not sure of the terminology.) After a healthy pause, I took four slow steps in its direction. It accepted the movement, and after a moment of stillness, it took four steps towards me, high-stepping with bent knees like a fancy lady making her way through mud.

Our gazes continued to hold. It was my turn, so four more steps, high bending my knees and scraping the balls of my feet in the needles carpeting the ground to match its careful gate. Again, the deer responded in kind. Slowly, ever so slowly, we alternated four steps, I lost count of how many times.

Finally, I took one step too many, and the deer jumped off, hopping away. But before it got too far, its curiosity returned, and it peered at me from behind a clump of redwoods. I respected its trepidation and remained still. A noisy exhalation, a woodland version of a horse’s whinny. I responded with a quiet brass player’s raspberry. Once the fear settled, it walked toward me again. I returned the movement, but only one or two steps at a time in this exchange, I did not want to overstep my welcome.

We enjoyed each other’s company for a several moments more, until the deer decided that was enough and turned back into the woods. Not in a panic this time, a cordial goodbye before going about with its afternoon.

So I turned myself, and sat down on a tree stump upholstered in red leather. (Like most wildernesses, these woods are not free from humans’ heavy hand, but at least here it has an absurdist embrace.) As I sit and write this, my wild acquaintance has not gone far, its occasional heavy breaths punctuating the birds’ songs and the rustle of the wind.

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