Giving Thanks for the Tradition of Rutting Deer

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Life is hard to keep up with right now.

The settling of my parents’ estates is coming to an end (thank God), and I’m spending more time in my valley. Thanksgiving is five weeks away, and Christmas will be here before I know it.

1007161138aWe’ve already had our first snowfall—and our second. I returned from the nearest city, where my daughter is studying law, to see even fewer colorful leaves on the trees, and more piled on the ground. Four young bucks were bedded down in the front; one little buck and four doe were in the back, in snow from last night’s weather.

About an hour ago, I noticed commotion outside the dining room windows. When I investigated, I discovered that the first tussles of the rut were starting. The four young ones were paired off, locking antlers and twisting their heads, taunting each other in a slow, graceful tango about ten feet from the large, glass panes. After a few promenades, they’d literally change partners. I don’t know if they were practicing for the real thing or just seeing who was the toughest, getting a bead on the competition.

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I know that this isn’t the serious rut; I saw that last year. Two much larger animals spent twenty minutes rocking up on their hind legs before crashing into each other outside my office. I slipped onto the deck to listen to the clacking antlers and thudding hooves and bodies. I was privileged to witness such an iconic ritual of fall in the High Country.

This seasonal continuity is calming to me. It reminds me that life goes on, that God is in control. I haven’t noticed blaze orange on the mountain about two miles to my north yet, but I know it’s only a matter of time until the hunters appear. Trucks were parked along the interstate yesterday, awaiting men and women returning with meat for winter meals.

And I’m planning our Thanksgiving menu tonight, an activity that always brings me joy. For the feast, I’ll use Mother’s more-than-century-old Johnson Brothers china (given to her by my dad), my grandmother’s sterling, and my crystal. My daughter and I will compose a centerpiece of purchased and foraged plants. Family and friends will share our traditions, unaware of the people whose taste and generosity grace the place settings.

In an ever-changing world, these rituals bring me peace. And enable me to honor my father and mother by remembering them with such love.

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