By Tina Traster

I hear his step before I feel his bare arms around me. His embrace is like a warm sweater. My nose is pressed against the chilled window. I never tire of watching snow fall. Tonight it is falling hard. It is piling like tufts of whipped cream on the concrete bird bath, the green birdhouse I decorated with a red cardinal, the picket fence. The storm silences the mountain pass. Boxwoods droop like slackened shoulders under the weight of eight or so inches. Tree branches groan each time they smack against the clapboards.

“It’s so beautiful out there,” my husband whispers, kissing the crook of my neck.

“I know,” I say, pulling him even tighter around me.

“It is beautifully surreal — but I worry about the animals.” 

He tugs me toward the bed.

I wonder if other people are as freighted with angst as I am when they gaze out their windows during a blizzard. Do they imagine where the deer are hunkered down? Wonder with unease whether the young or the sick will survive this relentless blizzard? 

“They’re wild animals,” my husband points out drolly.  

“Yes, of course they are,” I say.

Like a child who thinks about animals as storybook characters, I do too. My otherwise rational mind drifts into a reverie in which I corral the herd in my living room and urge them to warm up by the fire. I might even serve them a warm pot of cocoa and biscuits before my imagination yields to reality. 

I don’t know if my affliction for worrying about wild things relates to my city-girl roots. Until five years ago, I lived in brick towers high in the sky in Manhattan. The scene out of my window during a blizzard may have revealed a human, dressed in dark wool, bent forward into the storm, moving toward shelter. The image from high above would have conjured Impressionist paintings or nostalgic New York postcards. It would not have made me sad.

A city girl believes in stories like Charlotte’s Web. The deer outside my window may be as common as pigeons in Time Square but they are not invisible or anonymous to me. They are woven into the passage of day, the changing of the seasons. Their feeding at dusk portends the sun sinking behind the wavy outline of the mountains. Lean, nearly gray-coated bodies, speak of a winter still in progress. Antlers suggest fecundity. Does learning to steady themselves on our steep wooded slope complete the life cycle. But by late summer, a vague angst creeps into my body, into my mind. Another long harsh winter is coming.

New York State forbids feeding whitetail deer. It says so on a government web site. I pretend not to know that. Instead, I drive to Conklin’s Orchards each week and purchase crates of rotten crab apples. Every few days I pitch the shrunken fruit into the woods, dabbing the blanket of snow with spots of color. They congregate, more each time, and eat what has mysteriously fallen in their path. A storybook tale. 

One day I notice a deer’s head is cocked back and her entire body looks paralyzed. I squint through my window. Thick saliva is frothing from both sides of her mouth. Then she jolts her head back and forth, convulsively. I scream and run for my coat. The deer is choking on an apple.

By the time I fling open the front door a piece of apple shoots from the deer’s mouth like a spit-ball. She regains her composure and prances off into the woods. I drop onto a wooden bench and breathe deeply to make my dizziness stop.  

“If that deer had died, it would have been my fault,” I say aloud to nobody.

This has been quite a lesson. The following week I bring home another crate of apples but this time I peel paper labels from the skins and quarter them before hurling the fruit like snowballs into the woods.

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TINA TRASTER writes the 'Burb Appeal' column for The New York Post and "The Great Divide" blog for the Huffington Post. She is a city girl who has turned her efforts to social commentary on life in a NY-metro area suburb. She is not afraid to "out" bad actors, annoy neighbors, take on bumbling town officials or challenge anyone who messes with her bliss. She lives with her husband, young daugther and four cats in an 1850s reclaimed farmhouse on a beautiful mountain precipice.

Traster is at work on a memoir called Burb Appeal.

You can reach her via email at [email protected]

6 responses to “Apples In Winter”

  1. Irene Zion says:

    Tina,

    I can actually see you in my mind performing the Heimlich Maneuver on a choking deer.
    That is really, really sweet.
    I like you.

  2. Mary says:

    This is such a nice piece. There are deer where we live, too, and although I grew up in an area where deer were not entirely uncommon, they were very heavily hunted, so we didn’t see them around our houses much. Now, I feel so lucky when I see one out my window. I also worry about my cat who went missing while we were in the process of moving into our new house. She ran off into the woods that pretty much surround all the little subdivisions around here. I really hope she has found a warm place under someone’s back deck to snuggle up for the winter with some adopted cat family and a steady source of mice to eat.

  3. Lorna says:

    Ah this is such a sweet story. What lucky deer.

  4. Marni Grossman says:

    Tina, you’re my complete opposite. A much sweeter soul.

    In my senior year of college, I lived near a wooded path across the street from the main campus. My house was closest to the woods and, in the mornings, I’d often see deer clustered feet from my door. I found them terrifying. I had a nightmare in which the deer had learned to work doorknobs and broke their way into the house leaving chaos in their wake.

    So while you may dream of inviting them in, I can only hope that they stay the hell out.

  5. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Charming piece, Tina. I don’t live near deer, but the wild birds get fed regularly at our house. They can consider it a gift from me for their songs.

  6. Simon Smithson says:

    I was amazed to hear that there are suburbs in America where deer just roam around the place. That’s so wonderful to me.

    Nice write, Tina!

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