In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Deer season

This evening the deer family is in the lower orchard. They aren't easy to see, since they are the colour of fog, or of wet bark of old apple trees, or of rain-darkened boulders. They blend in. I can see them, though, because their movement attracts my eye. In this I think my eye has become more discerning during the past two and half years. I notice movement better now, and maybe shape: the patterned flicker of grass where a snake is passing; the cupped curve of a nest. My eyesight is terrible, but experience has begun to compensate. I have learned that if I notice something I ought to pay attention. Maybe that's the whole difference, right there, between now and then.

The deer remain mysterious, but they have begun to come into focus for us. One of the books that came with the house was The World of the White-tailed Deer, by Leonard Lee Rue III (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1962.) The book belonged to Howard T.Walden 2nd, who was Elizabeth Hyde's father and a well-respected nature writer, especially about fly fishing. His penciled underlinings and notes are a conversation between the reader and the writer. Maybe, too, they are notes on an inner dialogue inspired by his reading the book and remembering the deer he has seen in his life. It's like catching a few words from a distant thought, or like the hint of a deer as it leaps away, some foggy evening sixty or seventy years ago.

Rue tells me that deer stay in a three-generation matriarchal family composed in its simplest form of the older doe, the younger doe and the younger doe's offspring. He also says that they inhabit a one-square mile area for their entire lives, and move outside that area only in extreme conditions. That explains why, all fall, we have only seen this one family, and another solitary deer as well. There are other deer on the island, other families, but they inhabit other places.

The hunters were here only for the first couple of weeks of deer season. After that, they turn their attention back to the final touches of getting ready for lobster season, and the island grows quiet again. We call them the hunters, but really they are our same friends who have camps on the island and come over now and then during the summer. Their interest in the deer gives them an intimate connection to the island. Once a year they cut deep into the forest where nobody else ever goes, and build their secret places, and watch and wait. Because they take the time and because they pay attention they see more than the rest of us, I think.

Some of their wives tell them,"Fine, go off to McNutt's and hunt. Just don't kill anything." They do, though, and I think it's probably a good thing. There's not much killing of deer that takes place, but what does probably helps the herd as a whole. If there are too many deer on the island they will starve over the winter. Already the hunters are concerned about what they saw during this hunting season: deer smaller and thinner than they have seen in years past. It makes sense. This summer was not abundant for growing things. For a few weeks the hunters host the deer at lavish feasts of apples and carrots. But even so, the deer may be going into the winter with little reserve.

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