Odocoileus hemionus californicus
Image courtesy Photohiker
Late afternoon sun illuminates the meadow across the way, brilliant backdrop to the shadows already darkening my upstairs studio. Here, shaded by the ancient walnut, the window glass reflects my spotted smock and long brush as the afternoon quickly fades to evening. Frustrated in my attempts to capture on canvas the play of yellow light smudged with darkening shapes, I pause to listen to Tracey's lilting harp. The notes stream pure and clear across the path. Were I to turn to the eastern window, I might peer through the branches of the maple and down into the cathedral windows of her two-story living room, watch her graceful fingers plucking the strings, her arms gliding in arcs as she strokes the chords. Perhaps her mother, Merilee, sits on her low stool, spinning wool, as she does so often when Tracey plays.
But I choose instead to watch the fast-changing light, play with the pigments on my pallet, mixing a little more ivory with the yellow, trying to get the tint just right to record this moment. As elusive as the light is, it is impossible to capture the gaity of Tracey's music, Parry's Sonata in D, dancing in the air, tickling my toes. My brush dances across the canvas, sprightly, but not enough. I drop it into the murky water jar, wipe my hands on my smock and return to the window.
How old is Tracey now? Seventeen. She'll be leaving us soon, off on her roundabout, to learn the ways of other parts of the world. I'll miss her music, as will my dear Cheyenne. With luck, she'll return to us after her two years of exploration and settle in our little village. Cheyenne has long thought Tracey an ideal candidate to succeed her as village maestro.
Movement catches my eye. Across the clearing, a mule deer and her barely weaned young, one male, one female, forage among the oaks near the stream that feeds our lake. I know this family well. They come every afternoon. From now to dusk they'll nibble fallen acorns. When the shadows deepen, they'll follow the trail to their favorite spot along the creek and dip their heads to drink. The mother, ever watchful for the bobcat who likes to hunt this time of day, will keep an eye on her young. She'll butt them with her nose against the neck now and then, reminder to be wary.
By spring, her babes will be grown and on their own, and she will be heavy with new life, thanks to one of the rutting bucks vying for attention these past few weeks. They've not been round the last few days, suggesting she accepted one of her suiters. Dam and young amble deeper into the wood, obscured by brush and darkness. A flash of white as the young buck bounds away is the last I see of them. To the northwest, the low southern sun sets the hills alight with yellow fire. Apple trees glow softly on the near hillside, as if lit from within, all the brighter for the chasing shadows.