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Sunday in the Park

Teri Orr, Record columnist

I woke up early on the morning of this Thanksgiving, around 3:30 a.m. early, to be exact. I live in a quiet neighborhood on the edge of a cul-de-sac. Most days/nights at this time of year you could hear a bird burp outside my bedroom. It is that quiet.

But there was a ruckus among us this not-yet-day. A clamoring on my front porch, it sounded like, though I admit my nocturnal auditory skills are often influenced by my dreams. Still, it was enough to push me out of bed to investigate. As a woman who lives alone, you imagine all kinds of things that are going bump in the night.

When I reached the entry hall I peeked out the tall windows on the side of the front door. My half-awake state first registered really big, lean dogs in the yard, three of them. Then I saw the antlers. And a little child’s glee escaped my lips. I said to absolutely no one, "The deer are back." And then I stood there smiling and hugging myself, because my nightwear was thin and the downstairs was cold. But I didn’t move. Not for the longest time.

The deer did what they do in my yard. Eat from the birdfeeders. They like the mixed seeds and grains, not the niger but, surprisingly, the sunflower seeds. They wandered around the yard, rather the way guests graze at, say, the fireside dining at Empire Lodge. They were in no hurry. And once, in the suspended time I watched them, when a car did drive down my street, they stopped, waited for the car to pass and then continued on with their meal.

I should explain I almost never leave my bed at night. I am an easy sleeper. And those nights when troubles wake me, I have learned to keep a pen and paper by my bed and jot down my worries. I rarely rise and, say, make a pot of tea and wait for the dawn. I download my troubles and roll back over for the most part. Standing on the cold floor in the cold room, eventually making eye contact with the deer on my front porch, I was in a kind of surreal state.

And I was overcome with a sense of gratitude.

I know the deer dine in my yard often. I know because the neighbors tell me and the feeders are emptied at a rate that is impossible for the birds of winter here. But it is rare, in the whole of winter, that I have the honor of seeing them. So, I whispered to them, without moving my lips, that I was grateful, really grateful, they had woken me up to be a part of their ritual.

And in that altered state I easily shifted my thoughts to the special reasons I was grateful this year. And it had a lot to do with the old, old friends who had re-entered my life lately. The man who had seen a book, by a writer I worship, and had purchased it at the annual library book sale in September. He handed it to me, without ceremony, yesterday and I was overcome by his thoughtfulness.

On Monday, a woman who has helped me with me, and occasionally with work projects, cooked us dinner. Her family was out of state for the holiday and I would join mine later in the week. We spent hours catching up and, even though it had been months and months since we had talked, we fell into an easy rhythm. She is woman of enormous kindness and wisdom and I am always the richer for time spent with her.

And then, in the quiet of the moonlight with the deer huddling under the tree a friend had planted when my old tree died in that very same spot, I thought of the smile of the man at the coffee shop earlier in the week, the man who had been one of the very first people I met when I moved to town nearly 30 years ago.

He introduced to me to a young woman who is looking to gain a footing here. He was doing what he done with goodness knows how many people, helping her find her way. He has grown into his features which are part Zen Master and part imp. He laughs easily. And he is kind. Ever so kind. In a gentle, unromantic way, he was the first person to tell me 30 years ago that my eyes weren’t brown, they were hazel. To my knowledge he has always lived alone.

When I saw him in the market about a month ago, he looked a little thin but ever cheerful. Another shopper walked up to him while we were talking and said "Wow, you look better than I thought you would. Hang in there." And I asked him, whatever did the shopper mean?

My old friend, who I see rarely anymore, nearly died this summer. His illness isn’t important; his wellness is. And what he discovered, he said, was a community of people here he had long known on one level, who eagerly became his caregivers and nurturers and supporters.

I was shocked that so precious a person, who found me my very first house to rent in town, who had worked in the same field I had years ago, had nearly slipped away, and I had no idea. I tried not to hug him too tight and promised to stay in better touch. Yesterday in the coffee shop, he looked well. His eyes sparkled and he laughed easily and seemed again to have that Yoda wisdom I came to associate with him.

I nodded to the deer and thanked all that is holy that my friend is on the mend.

I thought I would stay watching for as long as the deer dined in the yard. But after a while I felt I witnessed long enough, it felt now a bit intrusive. They would continue their respite and I would retire, again, to my bed.

And as I pulled up the comforter and burrowed deep underneath it, I wrapped myself in the thought that this Thanksgiving, besides the profound gratitude I have for my little family of origin, I have enormous gratitude for the family of friends I have here. Sometimes I forget how precious the simplest of old relationships are. So before I become all caught up in the things that need wrapping and shipping and delivering and toasting and dining and laughing and unwrapping, I will spend a bit of quiet time rejoicing. The blessings I count, instead of sheep, when I can’t sleep include deer. And dear, dear friends. I’ll wrap those feelings around me when I refill the feeders, yet again, this Sunday in the Park

Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and the Big Stars Bright Nights Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley. Orr is also a former editor at The Park Record.


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