For the past several years, I have been fortunate enough to get a little R and R at the beach in the fall. It is my favorite place to let my hair down, kick back and reflect, and I always come away refreshed and revived for the upcoming year. A huge stack of books used to accompany me, but since receiving a gift of a Kindle, I am able to take thousands of books I have loaded onto the device with me and drop it into my beach bag along with the sunscreen and towel. Ah, the miracles of technology!
After Labor Day last year, the time had come to pack it all up and head for the coast. I was so excited! I love everything about the beach and the lure and love was always a constant. I have been fortunate enough to go each fall for the last several years, in fact to the same Gulf Shores condo and always knew what to expect. There would come a certain place in the road down south where I would begin to see the palm trees waving hello to me. I would pass the boiled peanut vendor, then a favorite little stop for gas and refreshment. I had so many things that I had come to depend upon. I knew how the brisk tang of the salt air would fill my nostrils one I got to a certain point in the highway. I knew where all the great thrift stores were….I could already feel the shifting sand under my feet as I made my way to the blinding white shore for the first time after arrival. I knew when the warm sun would finally be over the outdoor pool long enough to take the first dip of the day without freezing. I even often saw the same people from year to year that vacationed during my same 10 days and we were able to have a “family reunion” of sorts. It was all exactly as it was the year before and I loved it.
A couple of days after arriving at the coast I received a call from my son-in-law. He was cutting my yard for me while I was gone and when he had gone around back to mow, he noticed a large rotting tree that had fallen on the back fence during the storm the night before. After a call and visit to the neighbors, he assured them that the tree and fence would be fixed upon my return to town. But it is now January, and through a series of false starts and setbacks with insurance and contractors, the fence is still down and hasn’t been repaired.
My home is situated at the back of a nice neighborhood. My back yard overlooks the east side of a home on 4 acres. Over the course of the last 18 years I have lived here, I have seen several changes in both owners and lay of the land. The original owners had a small T-ball field built in the middle of their meadow and on Saturdays I could sit high on my deck and watch the little ones tumble and play. It was an every day occurrence to see all manner of wildlife in the field on any misty morning. Opossums, deer, and the occasional bobcat were all matter of course. We even caught sight of a small panther once! When I first moved into my home, there was a barbed wire fence stretched across the back and the view was uninhibited. The land beyond the home behind me had a pond and that family raised peacocks and peahens. It was not unusual for the occasional rebel to meander across both patches of land, come through the barbed wire and blast us a wake up scream at all hours of the day.
But over the years, owners and situations changed, outbuildings were built by one home owner along with a wooden fence, and I could no longer view the entire meadow behind me anymore. It was kind of melancholy, but the fence afforded some privacy to both myself and the neighbors, so it was deemed appropriate at the time.
But, I noticed something as the years went by…
As time went on, I noticed less and less wildlife walking through the meadow, and the squirrels, birds, and deer seemed to be more scarce since the building of the fence. I had thought it was due to the fact that the woods behind me were getting cleared out and some building had taken place there several years back and so the wildlife had probably migrated to another area that was less populated. I never gave it much thought till this last week. Several times I had walked to the window, or out onto the deck and see a different kind of bird that were on my feeders, or the squirrels eating the corn I had put out for them on the spinning tree feeder. I always try to keep those full, but when I am gone a lot, as I am, I don’t always see the actual animals, just the evidence that they were there from time to time.
Last week, other than a bit of computer work and eating soup, I pretty much was in bed sick. I am rarely sick, almost never, so this is not a place that is comfortable for me. I like being busy, and many of my days see me going out for first one thing then another for both my businesses, working on the computer in my home office at the front of the house, filing, etc. Whatever this crud was, it pretty much grounded me all week and I slept away most of the first part of the week, and ventured out onto the deck for fresh air only after four days. On Thursday, I was thinking back to two weeks before when I was standing by the kitchen window after opening the blinds and caught sight of a deer in the middle of the meadow behind me. I was so surprised…it had been well over a year since I had seen one, and I stood and watched it till it was gone from view. What had been common many years ago had become a rare sighting over time, so any moment I was lucky enough to catch one I just stopped everything and watched it as it walked around, ate, and finally moved into the woods again.
Suddenly during my daydreaming, I caught some movement by my fence at the corner and saw a tiny fawn step out and begin to walk timidly along the fence line…or what should have been the fence line…at the back of my yard. It walked all along, stopping to eat, to lift its ears and listen, then walk some more, always keeping to the same path. After a few minutes, it disappeared back into the woods, and I threw on a jacket and went to the back of the lot to see if I could see it again. Peering over the fallen fence, I never did catch another glimpse. But I did see something…I saw a well worn path in the grass and places where the green was worn down to the dirt. It went all along the old fence line, then off into the woods…
I wondered how many times the deer had been there all along, walking the fence line and I couldn’t see it because the fence was in the way? Did I see something just now that had been there all along only because I was home…and aware…and the fence was no longer blocking my view? How much beauty and quietness of nature had I missed over the years thinking it was no longer available to me?
So many parallels to my own professional and personal life are found in the story of my deer. I am at a crossroads in my life path and in the center of decisions that will affect the last part of my life. I want the decisions to be good and wholesome, something that will care for me but also allow me to care for others in ways that mean something.
Should I sell my cleaning business and start another vocation? Should I seek out a position in another company and help someone along their own professional path rather than be “the man” anymore? Do I go into estate and resales full time, re-purposing furniture and spending my days with paint under my fingernails creating treasures for others? Or do I sell my home where I know all my neighbors and all the idiosyncracies of the wood and stone, opting to occupy a home with my kids and grandbabies and just be GiGi to them the rest of my natural life? Are there things I have built into my own life over the years that started out as a good fence, but became a block to my own great future? Can I no longer see the deer?
Fences can be good things. They protect, they set boundaries, they guard, they embrace. But I am of the belief every fence should have at least one peephole in it. Otherwise you may miss those golden little opportunities for change and happiness as they stroll by….and wouldn’t it be sad if they had been there all along, just waiting for your fence to come down?