"Why did you get to see the reindeer?",she asked in the predawn. I pulled the blanket tighter against the chill and flatly said, "I needed it." And in the growing light, I knew that was the truth.
Thus far, the season had been a medley of homeowner calamities. With the coming of fall, mice had chewed through the gas lines of the Subaru. When the leaves began to die, so did the fridge. The dryer quit drying on Thanksgiving and a tub leak in one bathroom became a hole in the wall of another. Which, with the tutelage of YouTube, I decided to fix. (As of this writing, I've almost finished painting the entire bathroom.) When I plugged in the new little tree with multicolored lights on the porch, the GFI plug in the garage gave up it's ghost. Needless to say, the spirit of the holidays had grown somewhat dim.
Two weeks before Christmas, with the sun setting a little more to the south everyday, I walked out of the studio, completely self-absorbed, expecting an electrician to show any moment, because the little tree with multicolored lights was still just a darkened switch in the corner of the porch, and then, there it was: a reindeer.
To be honest, I knew it was an Odocoileus hemionus, commonly called a mule deer. But in that dusky light, he looked for all the world like a fictionalized reindeer, with the antlers and everything. All that was missing was the jingle bell harness.
Deer are in the area. I have seen them faltering just outside of my flashlight beam when I take the dog out. One recent winter, I saw a herd of five or six outside the window, while I was doing a bit of faltering myself on the treadmill at 5:30 in the morning.
But this guy was different. He was not hiding in the shadows. He was just a few feet from the house and having a nice long drink from the bird bath. He looked me straight in the eye and there was not a hint of fear, on his part or mine. He went about finishing his drink, while I snapped a couple of photos with my phone and then he moved to a small juniper tree and racked it good with his antlers. (I went over to that juniper later and the area smelled strongly of Christmas tree lot. Go figure.) Suddenly, he walked past me and off to the northwest disappearing into a juniper grove.
Now, as many of you know, 'A Christmas Carol', by Charles Dickens is one of my favorite books and throughout my life I feel I have played the parts of various of the characters in that tale. But far too often, I slip so easily into the role of Ebenezer. I find myself clinging to, but not learning from the ghosts of the past, and yet, still fearing the spirit of things to come.
So, reflecting on this encounter with the "reindeer", I realized it was none other than a sign. I have received so many signs this year: bold, blatant, life-affirming, hit-you-over-the-head sort of signs.
"Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, " hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope!"
— says Scrooge to the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come— A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, 1843
These have been very clear signs saying it's never too late. Signs that speak of a goodness that is always within reach. I am convinced this goodness is part of the design.
May you see your signs of this season and all your seasons.
"And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!"
Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas! - Pat Greenwell
Pat Greenwell is an artist. A painter and sometimes poet, he has been searching the New Mexico desert for a couple of years now, looking for lost possibilities and probable intentions.
"...mostly stream-of-consciousness stuff, you know...