Image by diane616 from Pixabay


Judith Peck, Ed.D.

Seated on my patio enjoying my lawn, I looked up and saw a young deer – teenaged 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. I said “hello.” (Do deer talk? I have never heard a peep from them.) Unmoving, the doe took several minutes to ponder the subtext of my greeting and then loped off. She did not run, clearly signifying our equal entitlement to the greenery between us. Point made, she’d simply had her fill. But we had locked eyes, entered the small world of each other’s universe and once aware, could not simply ignore each other. 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 so our situations accommodated us both. Not without reservations, of course, which all relationships must endure: Her extended family had consumed every tiger lily and daisy in the garden. Which I accepted in time and forgave.

Something similar happened on the same patio in my relationship with a muskrat. I think it was a muskrat or maybe a mole—something beginning with an M. (No disrespect, sometimes I wake in the morning feeling like something beginning with a J.) He emerged from his deeply dug habitat, the sneaky rodent having tunneled a vast domain under the pachysandra into which I once plunged barely escaping the demise of a leg. Enticed by morning sunlight and the smell of coffee, like me, the fellow ventured out and 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 him. “Good morning,” I muttered and hearing this unexpected voice he turned and bolted to his hole. (How do creatures live without talking?) Amazingly, and here is the thrust of my account, shortly he returned. Never before had I sighted this night-time creature nor had he encountered this daytime creature, but curious, he risked dangerous open territory to check me out. Having seen only his dugout—admired it in fact, after almost sinking into it,  I was equally curious to see him. This time he stayed a few moments longer. I shut up. We locked eyes; we connected, we shared our 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 as if 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 are looking. Barely noticing the emptiness that lingers inside, dry and even a bit rancid like ripe fruit going bad. Stuff that hangs around, at its best rather listlessly within our routines and customary interactions.

Once in a while, though, spurts of connection bordering on that exquisite intimacy of shared perceptions occur. These might 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 compelling a connection (like the mole and me—I’ve decided he’s a mole). If you’re lucky, there’s a friend you have a meal with, maybe even regularly, who is interested in you enough to listen and ask questions 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 enough to hold an exchange of solid thoughts but flexible too, so your separate attitudes can bounce high like kids on a trampoline. And then drop safely down with no hard feelings and make you eager to fly skyward again.