Our neighborhood is just outside the Chapel Hill town limits, no more than 10 minutes from downtown or the bustle of the mall. Twenty minutes would have you at an international airport and another 20 in the heart of the capital city.
There are many folks living around me who spend only scant seconds outside each day--the walk from the house to the car, the walk from the car to the office. Maybe there's the lunchtime stroll through the parking lot to pick up something at Target or Lowe's.
But here, just outside our suburban walls, was an entire herd of deer. Our neighborhood is very wooded with patches of well-tended lawns and lots of succulent ornamental shrubs. It's a deer paradise with the only predators being our growling pack of Hondas, Toyotas and Jeeps.
That's what had happened to this fawn. He had been clipped earlier in the spring, and I had seen him limping around, trying to keep up with the others. It must have been too much for him because now he was lying beside the little creek that runs through the marshy area where there aren't any houses. The land wouldn't perk there and so it's a miniature wild area.
What stopped me on my morning walk wasn't the sight of the deer just off the road; I actually probably wouldn't have seen it at all if I hadn't spooked what had come for the deer. What startled me and then captured my attention was the flapping of their wings, like big canvas sails slapping the air.
They were perched all around, in two and threes, like serious judges in their black robes. They seemed a bit too big for the understory's branches. This close I could see the wrinkled flesh of their featherless heads. One spread his wings and held them out, cocked and poised like an insignia. I doubt that he was trying to be symbolic, but it sure looked symbolic. He was the uniform emblem on the shoulder patch of both life and death.
I could see that they already had been at the deer. Tufts of brown and white hair were scattered around the body. From nearby I heard the rhythmic screech of a swing set's chains. Children shouted and a car door thudded shut. I realized it was time for me to leave.
That fawn didn't make it, but the big birds got their fill and their chicks, too, if they have them. For my part, I was reminded that it's all right here, right out the back door.
No matter where you live just go out and turn over a rock or look down into the drainage-blackened corners and you'll see them, the armies of life and the armies of death, both on the same side.