Monday, January 12, 2009


I took a walk this afternoon around 4:30 in the rain. Not exactly what I had planned, since I’d waited for hours for a break in the showers, but as soon as I stepped off the porch it started up again...or rather, down, again. I decided to forge on because the temperature was so mild for January 10th, and a little rain never hurt anybody.

I had been walking less than 2 minutes, when I spotted three white flags waving and moving up towards the prairie ridge, as I walked towards the bottom. Definitely not a surrender, but a retreat from someplace close to where I stood. I think deer are one of the most amazing creatures on the planet. They are not exotic, or terribly interesting, but they have the supernatural ability to appear and disappear like four-legged wizards. I decided not to track them, as it was getting close to dusk and I wanted them to find their favorite place to bed down for the night…which is probably what they were already doing. Oops.

When I got to the woods, I stopped to listen to the clacking of raindrops hitting the dried leaves on the forest floor. It was strangely similar to the sound they made hitting my nylon raincoat. Not the muffled thud of a summer shower absorbed into the soil and the decomposed leaf litter. This was crisp and clear. I closed my eyes to hear the syncopation and wondered, putting a twist on the proverbial riddle, if I wasn't there in the forest would the rain still make a sound?

I remember having the other question posed to me as a young girl and found it philosophically intriguing, "If a tree falls in the forest, and there's no one there to hear it, does it still make a sound?" But as a pondered this, my head tilted back receiving the sprinkling of holy rainwater, I realized that the question is anthropocentric at its heart. The glorious truth is that there are thousands, if not millions, of other organisms in a forest that would hear or feel the falling of a tree. Human receptors are not the only indicators of whether something is real or not. It reminded me of a similarly poignant question posed by musician Bruce Cockburn in a song about the rainforest, "If a tree falls in the forest, does anybody care?"

Finally, as I traversed back through the prairie, the rain let up. I headed for the house; making one last stop to check for any damage the deer had done to the fruit trees planted this past fall. It was minimal, for which I was grateful, so I think they’ll make it. Next year, we’ll probably see lots of deer helping themselves to our peaches, cherries, and apples...or maybe we won’t. If I stand in the orchard and don't see any deer...does that mean they're not there?