I woke up one morning, flung open my curtains and for a moment I thought I had a unicorn in my garden!   Real life filtered in, and I realised that it was a roe deer with its vertical antlers side on!  I live on Salcombe Hill and one of the wild roe deer had overnight wandered into our garden. It had discovered our Golden Euonymus and was busy eating all the yellow leaves. We now have a bush that has a straight line – green only at the bottom then green and yellow at the top! It wandered around the garden trying other bushes but returned to the golden bush! The deer was still there when we went out but was gone when we returned. 

Personally, I was delighted to see it and was happy for it to trim the bush. All the websites said not to feed it, just let it graze. So, we didn’t even offer it carrots! I do know that some people think that deer are a pest, that they destroy the natural habitat by close grazing of new plant shoots and trampling the surface vegetation which has serious effects on the local biodiversity. With no natural predators the deer population can become overwhelming and careful culling has been done. There is evidence that when deer are present at low density woodland diversity is at its greatest, and when there are no deer or a high density of deer then biodiversity suffers. The deer grazing, at low density, thin out the new growth and keep down the vigorous species which take over to block other plants and wildlife from developing. A question of getting the right balance.

Across the world there are myths about deer – most of them are about bringing new hope. In the midst of adversity, there is the potential for a positive change. “The clever wish” was one of the first tales I learned. It was in an English setting, but it has an Indian origin.

Once there was a man who lived with his wife, his blind mother, and his wife’s father. He loved his wife, and their one hope was for a child, but it was not to be. They were very poor; food was scarce and when rumours spread that there was a white hind in the woods, he was determined that he would feed his family on venison that night.  He hunted all day, thirsty and hungry, until he spotted a flash of white. He followed it through the wood, chasing it through the bushes and trees until suddenly it stopped and faced him. He raised his bow and arrow and aimed for its heart. Then the deer spoke. 

“Please do not kill me. In my belly lies new life. Kill me now and you take two lives.  Let me go and I will grant you one wish.”

The man was astonished and lowered his bow. He could not harm this creature that offered him this gift. He agreed but asked for time to consult with his family. The deer told him he had until midnight to make his wish. 

The man returned home, and although the family were disappointed there was no meat for the table, they were intrigued by the wish. Her father suggested great wealth. His mother wanted to be able to see. His wife said nothing, but her hand rested on her belly, and he knew that she wanted a child.

What to do? What to ask for? His family wanted so many different and diverse things. How could one wish would meet all their needs? 

The moon was high. Midnight was getting close. His family watched him. “I wish,” he said, “I wish that my mother could see her grandson in a golden cradle.”  The family smiled, and in time it was so. While so diverse they all got their own wish. A question of getting the right balance. 

Janet Dowling.

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