Listening to Your Heartbeat

I stand at the bedroom window. Five deer graze between the south side of the house and the neighbor’s fence.  The distance between the house and the fence is maybe ten feet – hardly a meadow. For the most part, they are rooting around at the base of the wild roses. I can’t imagine what they find to eat there.

100_5425But one deer is as interested in me as I am interested in her. I look out; the deer looks in. Our eyes lock. What is she thinking? Her eyes seem to search my soul. She watches me for maybe ten minutes… daring me to break my gaze? Judging my character? Finding my soul lacking?

I remember my sister speculating at my father’s funeral in Cimarron, New Mexico. It was mid-day. A strange time for a lone deer to stand in the open… watching us… seemingly with intent. My sister wondered if (and was comforted by the thought that) Daddy’s soul had by-passed Purgatory and flown straight to the deer.

Thinking of the deer, my thoughts ricochet to Frank Waters’ most famous book, The Man Who Killed the Deer. I have my mother’s dog-eared copy here at home. I remember enjoying it… in the ’60s, I guess – long before I taught on the Navajo and White River Apache reservations.  I need to read it again. I remember it as one long meditation… a prose poem. I remember that the main character is caught between the Pueblo Indian culture and the 20th century white man’s world. Martiniano has killed a deer out of season  in the National Forest. The white man’s government is not amused.

A dancer honors the deer in Guaymas, Mexico


A dancer honors the deer in Guaymas, Mexico

I pick up the book and open it at random. Martiniano is before the Council. “A Council meeting is one-half talk and one-half silence. The silence has more weight, more meanings, more intonations than the talk.”

The discussion centers on the killing of the deer. “All these things and shadows of things ensnared like flies in the web of silence. They fluttered their wings. They shook and distorted the whole vast web. But they did not break free. For it was the web which binds us each to the other, and all to the life of which we are an inseparable part.” Lovely.

My mind jumps to the Quaker Way, and the value of silence. Perhaps an entire hour is spent in silence. Perhaps after a period of silence, a member speaks. When someone speaks, protocol dictates that silence is observed for a period of reflection. Time passes before anyone else speaks aloud. Silence does not come naturally to me. But I understand the concept.

Congress would do well to do as I did and spend six weeks studying the Quaker Way. Who knows…  with more silence in the Halls of Congress, members could move forward – away from debate and towards deliberation. And I reference The Public Conversations Project:

Debate assumes that there is a right answer and you have it. Deliberation assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and together they can craft a new solution. Debate participants attempt to prove the other side wrong. Deliberative participants work together toward a common understanding.

Debate sees people defending assumptions as truth. Deliberation calls for  re-evaluating assumptions. Debate sees people searching for flaws in others’ positions. Deliberation has participants searching for strength and value in others’ positions.

Snow Dance February 10th

Snow Dance
February 10th

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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4 Responses to Listening to Your Heartbeat

  1. Beautiful post Doris.
    Made me think of a poem I wrote after meeting a deer (I was in Chicago, not Colorado, at the time). Always a spiritual occurrence.

    On Seeing a Doe in the Prairie by the Bridge

    Out there in the cold you don’t expect to see anyone.
    Glad if you don’t, actually. Time to be alone, find a stump,
    brush the mound of snow off
    sit for a while by the creek that’s all froze up and listen,
    like the deer do.
    You are a stranger here the birds know that –
    calling out to one another in their strange tongue retreat, retreat, retreat.
    And all at once she’s there, chestnut markings
    like a dark target framed against the vast white and so are you.
    Afraid to reach for your camera, in case she thinks it’s a gun, and runs.
    In case this moment doesn’t last.
    At last she looks.
    Sees you, looking.
    Answers your looking with a stare and you hook eyes like antlers,
    both gripped by what you don’t know about the other.
    And for that long held moment you are both graceful.
    Forgiven.

  2. timeout2 says:

    Thank you, Helga. It is quite painful to have Mark in London while I’m at home. Although home alone is not all bad – revising (and sometimes trashing) a lot of my old writing. Also, in London vicariously through watching Prime Suspect again after a good number of years. The series has held up very well. How are things going with your new camera? Are you using it on a daily basis? Send me some photos.

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