Monday night I decided to take a walk around dusk. I didn’t bother to take a flashlight because I was going to stay on a familiar road and I also knew we were just coming off a full moon and there would be some moonlight to help me see.
It had rained that morning and the air was a lot cooler than usual for an August evening. Of course, that’s not really saying much for August in Texas, but, still, it wasn’t unpleasant for a fairly short walk.
I went up to the road that marks the county line and turned onto the dirt road. Most of our land is uncleared. We like it that way but I always wonder what our neighbors think.
Mike and Anita Pruitt have built a gorgeous two-story brick house with a separate wing for family members when they visit. They’ve cleared all the land around their house . They keep the lawn pristine and have only a few tasteful crape myrtles. It would look right at home in any new suburb, which is exactly what I think Anita ordered.
The only problem Mike and Anita have with their house is that it’s across the street from me. Because Beaven and I have the opposite dream for our home. We’re more into wilderness and consequently have left our land mostly untouched. And I’m not really sure anyone has EVER cleared it. It’s a jumbled forest worthy of a visit from Little Red Riding Hood. And I refuse to feel bad about this because our little brown cabin was here first.
I was almost home from my walk when it happened. I heard a rustle in our woods across from the Pruitts. Whatever it was, it was bigger than an armadillo. And it was moving faster than a cow. I turned around and saw a deer run across the road behind me.
At least I think that’s what it was. It was dark enough now that it was hard to see clearly. It was too big to be a goat but it made the same soft padding sound when its feet and soft hooves landed on the asphalt.
There was another rustle and a pause. I stood stock still and eventually a second deer ran across the road.
There was another pause and the rustle told me there was a third deer who then raced across the road to the Pruitt’s open field. They knew that if they could get beyond the Pruitt’s clearing there would be more woods and safety.
I’ve seen deer cross this road before but never when I was walking. Never when I was close enough to hear their feet. It was dark enough that I couldn’t really see what they looked like. I had identified them more by a collection of clues than by sight alone.
There was a spiritual feel to the encounter. I had born witness to something intimate. It was just me and the deer. There were no weapons, no barriers between us. Each of us was ending our day and on our way to bed down for the night.
Sight can take away the spiritual nature of an encounter like this. The spiritual is not made for sight and acknowledges itself by only a vague awareness. It enters our lives with a delicate touch so as to not overwhelm our senses and only hints at its presence. It leaves things up to your imagination. Did I really see what I thought I saw? Was it really there? The spiritual brings no documentation of its visit. You can’t record it because you’re not even really sure what you saw or heard.
A couple of years ago I had a similar experience with the light playing through the trees when I walked outside. In this case I was able to capture it visually but it was the feel of the air against my skin that confirmed I was in the presence of the spiritual.
The deep connection between mortal and eternal, between human and divine is always a fuzzy line. We can get just close enough to the divine to know it’s there but never close enough to touch it. I know it’s there but I can’t prove it.
I think that’s the way the sacred goes. It’s not meant to be seen with our eyes but with our soul.
I have felt it before. Laying on my back on the steps at the Mayan ruins at Quirigua. Holding a newborn. Seeing the light sift through the morning mist. Seeing a deer at dusk.
We are only permitted a glimpse here and there. Nothing we can prove. But something that surely exists. I know it’s there.
I had a conversation with Sarah when she was about seven years old. “What is heaven like?” I asked her. She told me she could remember God talking to her when she was a baby. As we age, we lose this voice of God within our hearts. But once in a while we hear it whisper to us on a deserted road at dusk.