I rarely got to do things on my own time, for the longest while. It was like having a pocket full of dimes, each one nicked in turn, until the pocket turned out empty. I imagine that others struggle under the weight of this theft, too, minutes carved out by small necessary things, hours snatched in hunks by jobs, whole days stolen when one isn’t looking. At least, that’s the narrative spun by American culture. Living in the US, we here hear it on the way to work in our cars, the TV parrots this to our faces in programs and advertising, and the packaging of products we consume regularly manage to tell us, over and again, how busy our days are. Is it the same elsewhere? Do others notice this too? Everything sold on the basis of how busy we are, upon the premise that our lives can’t fit another thing in them.
I think it was this notion that finally broke, and not me. It had outlived its usefulness, and as cultural narratives go, I didn’t like it very much to start with anyway. So I took some time, stole it back, put it in my pocket with some trail mix and water in place of the dimes. I wore pants with very large pockets, that day. At the park, I even managed to fit a trail map in. My roommate came along, with a Camelbak full of water, and his pocket full of cookies. Ginger snaps, to be precise.
And we set off, slowly, deliberately, out into the woods of Myakka. The air was made of gold dust, and the tall spikes of golden weeds promised lascivious things to the bees. Finally, out and free of clocks, of stingy time, of credit report ads displayed on screen with funny dancing figures. The world was made of oak hammock and Florida prairie.
Ah, but the sun sets early these near-winter days, and here in Florida, its gold-orange disk dips so quickly below the horizon. Daylight reclined after awhile, and the air became thick with evening glow. And on a barely beaten track through prairie grass pollen plants, that’s when we saw her.
The doe didn’t so much as glance at us, nosing around for low growing leaves, but we stood stock still barely breathing, places traded for once. A full three minutes passed before she sauntered westward, across the trail, and disappeared under the palmettos.
“How far away was she from us? Twenty feet?” I asked my roommate.
“About that,” he said in wonderment.
Two grown adults, no strangers to venison, two logical thinkers, held fast by the presence of a deer. We resumed our conversation, slid back into our hiking gait, and rounded a sharp bend in the path.
Then, there she was again. Face to face with us, she started skittishly, but stayed, looking back at us with eyes of liquid black. Three breaths before she turned and retreated, and two too-busy city mice were awed to have been so thoroughly appraised… and been deemed worthy.