Seated on my patio enjoying my lawn, I looked up to saw a young deer – teenaged, I’d calculate in human terms – staring at me. I stared at her. Motionless, we engaged with one another. Until I felt a need to break the long moment and said “hello.” (Do deer talk? I never hear a peep from them.) The doe, unmoving, took several tense minutes to figure out the subtext of my greeting. Then she loped off. She did not run, clearly signifying our equal entitlement to the greenery between us; point made, she’d simply had her fill. We had locked eyes, entered the small world of each other’s universe. We could not simply glance and ignore each once we became aware. We were together in the moment, but we did not connect. Our intentions, let alone biology were too different. She wanted to eat, I wanted to watch her and our situations accommodated us both; her extended family had already consumed every tiger lily, peony and daisy so I’d declared open season on the bushes.
Something similar happened on the same patio with a muskrat. I think it was a muskrat or maybe a mole — something beginning with an M. (No disrespect intended, sometimes I wake in the morning feeling like something beginning with a J.) He emerged from his deeply dug habitat into which I once almost plunged to my demise, the sneaky rodent having tunneled a vast domain under the pachysandra. Perhaps enticed by morning sunlight and the smell of coffee like me, the fellow ventured near to where I sat. As though he’d never seen a human, he stopped to look directly at me. Once again, as with the doe, I could not contain myself from greeting “good morning” and with the sudden sound he turned and hastened back to his hole. (How do creatures live without talking?) Amazingly, and this is the thrust of my account, very shortly he returned. Never before had I seen this night-time creature nor had he seen this daytime creature, but curious, he risked dangerous open territory to check me out. Having seen only his dugout—admired it in fact, I was equally curious to see him. This time he stayed a few moments longer; I shut up; we locked eyes; we connected, sharing our new and intense curiosity for one another. Until I couldn’t help myself and said “How are you?”
How deep is the need to make connection. Every once in a great while, we have a rich conversation with someone and feel the intensity of locking minds or blending sensitivities. It is always thrilling. Not roller coaster thrilling, more organic, coming from within: Sparks of thought ignite into little flames rising and brightly dancing about as words form and are articulated, igniting other thoughts, imaginings. A creative event.
We spend time searching for such connections—consciously, as when we look for good theater or a dramatic movie or pull a book with an intriguing title from a library shelf, but other times not even aware that we’re looking. Barely noticing the emptiness that lingers inside, dry and even a bit rancid like ripe fruit going bad. Stuff that hangs around within our routines and customary interactions.
Once in awhile, though, little spurts of connection, just bordering on that exquisite intimacy of shared thought or feelings occurs. It could emanate from a provocative exchange with a shopkeeper, a stranger sitting beside you on a bus, a fellow dinner party guest. Or a shared curiosity about the other compelling the connection (like the mole and me; I’ve decided he is a mole). If you’re really lucky, there’s a friend you have a lunch with, maybe even regularly, who is interested in you enough to listen and just as interesting to listen to. Or if you’ve caught the brass ring, a partner.
Connecting: you know when it happens whether transitory or sustained. You enter together a threshold that you sense is sturdy to hold an exchange of solid thoughts but flexible too, so your separate attitudes can bounce high like kids on a trampoline and drop safely down with no hard feelings. And in seconds, you are eager to fly skyward again.