There’s a farm down the road that I call the Deer Farm. They don’t actually raise or breed deer-it just happens to be a place where some deer have chosen to live. They seem to spend most of their time in the wide meadow behind the little white farmhouse though occasionally they get very close to the front porch. Nobody seems to live in the farmhouse; I’ve seen a car in the driveway exactly once. I’m guessing this is one of the reasons that the deer have made the Deer Farm their own.
Everyone around here complains about deer: they eat the grapes in the vineyards, the flowers in the gardens and they have a dangerous nocturnal habit of darting in front of cars- causing great damage to vehicles – and sometimes to their passengers as well. “Drive home slowly,” my friends have warned me when I’ve left their houses at night. “Be careful of the deer.” But what about their great fear of us?
I felt their fear this morning when I passed the small herd of deer that live on Deer Farm while taking a ride on my bike. There were five deer were grazing in the meadow. Four were content to watch me cycle past but a fifth panicked and began running, or rather, careening, up the road. Three of the five deer decided that he (or she?) might be onto something and followed suit. But instead of simply running straight up the road, one tried to leap the chain link fence on the side that separated the forest from the road. It was too high. She tried and failed again. Another banged herself against the fence over and over, as if trying to force a hole. Then she tried to crawl underneath it. They were like criminals on the run (which is pretty much how everyone around here views them, of course.) The third, much smaller deer kept running down the road. I got off my bike, hoping they would all realize there was no longer a reason to fear. But they were too focused on their efforts to flee.
I turned around and rode off in the opposite direction, hoping they’d realize I was gone and return to the Farm. I thought about the nature of fear and of perceived dangers and how our fears are so rarely the result of actual threats but much more often our perception of things. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, seeking to comfort a nation deep in the throes of a depression reassured Americans that they had nothing to fear but fear itself- which successfully quelled a run on the banks. Today, with so much dark news all around us- job losses, property losses, banking crises, flu and e coli scares – it seems as if we need to be reassured once again- lest we panic and begin running in all directions, well, like the deer.