Oh, Deer!

“By knowing when to let the trees grow as they wanted, the orchard owner still had a good crop.”

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Neurons–axons, synapses, dendrites–make a forest of the brain. Neuroscience suggests that the human brain goes through a pruning process to shape its individuality. Experience, chance, synchronicity and serendipity help grow our unique orchards. Writers shape their brains by their work. Having written we learn to write. Our branches lengthen, strengthen and make things out of the unseen energy of our world, like leaves making trees out of sunlight, soil and water.

Sitting in the early-morning sun, near the top of Black Mountain, I watch two deer feed down below, a doe and her young one, mule deer with radar ears, their camouflage nearly perfect, their silence a wonder. They move out of sight and within a few minutes I sense rather than hear them above me, behind me. They are cautious but not fearful. Keeping them in sight takes some effort. Only the flick of a tail or an ear lets me see their gray bodies among the slash and standing lodge-pole pines. The young one leaps a downed tree and makes eye contact.

Nothing calamitous or dramatic in our meeting, but somewhere in my neural forest is a twig that bears their image, and without forcing that fruit it will be there when I want it, soothing and silent. This too is writing.

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