After the last great storm on the Chesapeake, we return to our cabin to clear wreckage from our property. Dismembered branches, the size of medieval javelins, had been hurled through the air, landing on the ground or tangled in trees. I am dressed in jeans, my Wellies, and all morning have been lifting and dragging large branches into the woods. I reach down to grab hold of a bundle of branches and that is when I see it.
The hollow forms a perfect bowl. Surrounded by a mishmash of debris tangled together like pick-up sticks, the roundness emits an energy. It speaks of order in all this natural chaos. A bird’s nest that sailed through the air during the cyclone and now is here, whole and intact, on the ground. I reach out both hands and carefully dislodge the nest from the branch it is still secured to. It’s interior is four inches in diameter and again I notice its shape. It is extraordinarily round, as if spun on a ceramic wheel. It pulses circle, a basic form in the universe.
I lean forward and more carefully study the nest. The inside of this perfect bowl is two inches deep at its center. I carry it to our screened-in porch, careful not to dislodge twigs protruding from its sides, knowing it is well built, has already traveled the currents of a cyclone, and I don’t need to worry about it unraveling.
I place it at the center of a round outdoor resin table, somehow guided to center the nest on another round shape. It pauses me, this dizzying, mesmeric, utterly round artifact, evoking my recognition of a presence within and beyond this world. The Russian Cosmonaut, Alexey Leonov, said, when he saw the earth from space: “The Earth was absolutely round. I believe I never knew what the word round meant until I saw Earth from space.”
They were everywhere, swimming in our pools, chomping through farm animal supplies. Tire skids crisscrossed highways. Everyone agreed—the deer had to go. Paved parking lots were created along roads undulating around forests and farmlands to make it easier for hunters to come in and finish the job. Outdoor bulletin boards were erected with dates, hunting information. It all screamed: decrease the deer.
I was driving down the two-lane, returning to our cabin on this evening, warm for late October. The air was blue with river fog billowing off the Chesapeake, across harvested cornfields, beneath a rising moon. The three pick-ups in one paved lot indicated the hunters were here doing the job since, after all, we no longer saw the rear ends of deer leaping through brittle cornstalks.
But down the darkening road, and hardly giving me a chance to brake, a doe appeared, ears cocked, eyes sweeping asphalt. Behind her sprang the slender legs of two . . . three . . . four yearlings she led into our community woods, off limits to hunters.
I eased forward, halted when a fawn burst from bushes and landed roadside. Unafraid inside the doe’s protective world, the fawn toddled after the others, looking neither left or right. Paused by this fleeting vision, I watched the fawn’s tail disappear into brush. After checking to make sure there were no more, I lifted my foot from the brake and slipped into the woods myself.