Friday, December 19, 2014

A Christmas story

Many years ago I bought a life-size horse made from cottonwood branches.  Joe Halko, a friend and colleague, made the sculpture. Joe was a well-respected wildlife sculptor, known for his sensitive and beautiful bronzes. The horse made of branches was an anomaly – he only made a very few of them. The work he had done throughout his career was more traditional, both in style and material.

I can still remember the day Joe and his wife delivered the horse and actually helped to set it in place.

A few short years later Joe died unexpectedly. Those of us who knew him were shocked and saddened.

Bronze by Joe Halko
As Christmas neared that year we erected an old Christmas tree with bright white lights near the horse. We had done this before and it seemed appropriate for the vastness of the prairie in front of our house. But that year two deer began showing up every evening at dusk to bed down near the tree. There was something magical and surprising to see them arrive each night. Maybe they were seeking warmth from the lights, I thought. But they never laid down right next to the tree. They were just there, every night, close, but not too close, to the lit tree and cottonwood branch horse.

Christmas Eve came. I waited for the deer to arrive. It seemed so important to have them bed down near the tree on that night – two deer by the lights of the tree and the horse standing nearby. I waited and waited, but they never came – not that night or ever again.

At first I was disappointed. Until I realized what had happened. In that moment I knew where the deer were. I knew they had someplace else, somewhere far more important, to be that night.