Otis & Friends 5I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

Don’t you just love art? Did you know that Prairiewoods has its very own Artist in Residence, Joni Reed Cooley? I often pose for her, hoping to get picked up in one of her beautiful photographs or painted works of art. Last week, she reflected on an encounter with some of the deer who spend much of their time on the 70 acres that make up Prairiewoods. Here’s the rest of her story …

Last week I shared with you my experience of watching the deer from my Guest House room at Prairiewoods, when a large doe came flying out of the woods and frantically ran around a group of deer who had gathered to feed under the pines. She buzzed around them in a circle twice and then galloped back into the woods, leaving the deer in a very agitated state. I wondered what in the world was going on and stood there puzzled.

A few minutes later, I was given a spectacular experience. Up walked three bucks, a large elder buck, an adult male and a little one. They immediately became Grandfather, Father and Grandson in my mind. The young one with his tiny antlers melted my heart! They walked into the clearing by the window slowly, glanced in the window and stopped there right in front of me.

My jaw dropped as I saw what they were about to do: the Grandfather was play sparring with the little one! The little guy was going antler-to-antler with Grandfather, with the elder training him on how it is done. My heart swelled at the precious scene, as I watched the little guy push so hard with his little antlers against the great antlers of his elder, so much bigger than him! The little one was so intent and serious about it, and the Grandfather was stoic and gave in just the right amount. The Father deer stood close by at the ready, alert to stop the little guy if he became too rambunctious. I was spellbound. They continued locking antlers in their sparring training session for about ten minutes, until Grandfather seemed to tire of the game, and the Father moved in to signal the end. They stood and rested for a short while and then slowly moved on without a backward glance as if it were nothing.

Deer at Prairiewoods by Joni Reed CooleyIt was such an incredibly heartwarming scene. I felt so honored to be able to witness it. They were clearly aware that I was there at the window, and I swear that they decided, “Hey, let’s show her what we can do!” I was totally awestruck. Ironically, I did not have my camera at the window like I normally do, and I didn’t want to break the spell and spook them by moving away to get it. But as is typically the case, it was for the best, because I was able to fully savor the tender spectacle unfolding in front of me, instead of focusing on getting a good photo.

So what happened to the rest of the deer? I was so engrossed in watching the display in front of me that I didn’t see where they went. But they had moved on, alerted by the one brave doe scout who apparently signaled the bucks’ arrival.

I felt very blessed that night, as I reflected on that rare, poignant scene played out in front of me. I thanked God for allowing me to witness that intimate and moving experience with three generations of his walking miracles. I also thought about how we are like the three generations of deer in our best moments. That night, I felt very blessed to be so close to nature and God’s creations, and deeply thankful for this incredible place called Prairiewoods.

—by Joni Reed Cooley, Artist in Residence