Clyde Davis: Local Columnist
It was one of those crispy, crackly northeast Ohio evenings when the cold light from the stars and distant planets seem to invade our own planet, frosting the trees and icing the lake surface. Need I say that the season was autumn, fairly close to this time of autumn, when the wind blows down from Canada and the sunset comes early?
Guilford is a small lake, and the rim of frost had begun to form along its edge as I was walked its circumference at about 8 p.m. on a November evening. The world was losing focus for me, and I had come to this, one of my favorite places, to try to get a handle on what was going on.
He was legendary in that part of northeast Ohio. Some hunters claimed to have seen him, but very few had seen him up close. The occasional deer hunter had been near enough for a clean shot — in Ohio shotguns are used for deer hunting, due to the heavy woods — and a few had reason to believe that they had hit him and should have brought him down.
Stories like that had led to the whispered belief, voiced over campfires on cold autumn nights, that he was a ghost — supernatural — a twelve- or fourteen-point whitetail the size of an elk.
As I walked the north end of the lake, absorbed in wondering how I had come to this point in my life and whether it wasn’t really more my fault than anyone else’s, I heard a rustle and a coughing grunt from the direction of the water.
I stood completely still, and he emerged from a stand of maple, silhouetted against the lake for just a moment. Then he began to cross the path, stopped dead in the middle, and looked directly at me.
He was massive — the size of a horse, it seemed, and lit silver-gray by the fall moonlight.
His thick winter coat looked rimmed with frost, though that made no sense. His eyes reflected supreme confidence, and perfect unity with nature. For at least two minutes, he gazed at me. Then, without the slightest hurry, strolled across the path away from the lake.
The message, or affirmation, was clear.
It was a late summer evening, the scariest time of my life. I had been told that I had cancer and, after teaching my New Testament class at CCC, I was picked up by Janice and we headed for Pennsylvania, where Dr. Landreneau would perform the surgery that would save my life and leave me essentially as healthy as before. However, we didn’t know any of that — not for sure.
It was around 9:30, somewhere north of Bovina, that the headlights showed something in the road. The barn owl was hunched over as we rounded the bend. When the lights found her, she raised her head and spread her wings — but didn’t fly. She stared directly at us — massive, golden hypnotic eyes — for what seemed like a full minute. Then she looked up at the night sky, flapped once, and took off.
Once again, the message, or affirmation, was clear. It was then that I began to believe I would be okay.
You can be skeptical if you like. One of the negative results of our modern separation from nature (yes, there are many others) is that we are no longer attuned to the signs which the Creator sends to us.
You can be skeptical if you like, but I know what I believe.
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org