"G'night", I shout back.
"When are you coming to bed?" my little sister asked from the tent she and I were sharing with our dad and her mom.
"I have no idea, I'm not tired at all", I answered. I rarely am at 10:00pm.
With that my family fell silent and asleep. This past weekend we were camping at Yankee Meadows for the second time this summer. The first time, which I had enjoyed thoroughly, I had gone to bed at the same time as everyone else and had spent a miserable few hours while my totally awake body tried to get comfortable on the hard ground. My body just doesn't sleep at that early, unless I'm sick or a missionary. Having learned my lesson, this time I opted to read by the fire pit, sans fire, alone. My dad loaned me a book (for the second time I had forgotten to bring one) and I read by flashlight. Clouds filled the sky, shielding the earth from any light from the stars or moon. Without the flashlight, everything was pitch black.
I hunkered down on a folding camp chair and read for a few minutes. I found that I couldn't concentrate on the book (though it promised to be very interesting) and finally turned off the flashlight. I sat in the dark, thinking, mostly about my most recent decision. Gradually my eyes grew accustomed slightly to the blackness and I could make out the outlines of the trees and bushes. Being afraid of the dark and having an overactive imagination, my senses were alert to anything that seemed out-of-place. After just a few minutes my ears picked up faint sounds just behind me, not far off, that seemed like steps, by human or animal I couldn't tell; either scared me. Panicky, I quickly turned on my flashlight and aimed it in the direction of the sounds and directly at a now-frightened-to-almost-death doe. She stumbled over herself as she attempted to flee a.s.a.p. and darted off into the comforting darkness.
My heart gradually slowed down to a normal beat. I still couldn't read so I turned off my flashlight again, thinking that no way would the doe return after being scared off before. I was wrong! Within a few moments of turning off my light, she returned. I guess the grass she was munching on was extremely tasty. Maybe she found some of the food my niece had spilled. I turned my light on again, this time avoiding shining it directly at her. Instead I edged just the outer area of the light in her direction. She was a pretty big deer. Her ears stayed up and alert. My body froze and I barely dared to breath. My heartbeat raced. Slowly, she made her way further into camp and at one point she brazenly nibbled on grass just 4 feet away from where I sat. Frequently she would look at me, guaging whether or not I was a threat. I guess I wasn't because an eternity seemed to pass before she calmly walked out of camp, on to greener pastures I imagine.
I cursed my family for leaving me to experience such an awesome moment alone, again. The last time we had gone camping the same thing had happened. Everyone except me went fishing and while I read (a borrowed book) by the dying campfire, a doe wandered into camp - this time in front of me instead of behind. Both times I didn't even have access to a camera to record the moment! I told everyone that I wanted someone to stay (quietly) with me at all times, so I could share the experience with someone! Really, it was absolutely amazing to be so close to such a beautiful animal.