“You don’t scare me, Human. Only a little, but I’m young and lithe, all muscle and sinew and curiosity. Yes, my pink mouth does occasionally grope for my mother’s milk, but see how aptly I crunch away at summer flowers gone to seed!
“Don’t let these fading spots mislead you, Human. I’m not naive. I’ve listened to the gathering herd’s rumblings, the rumors of Warm leaving for a long while, but always returning…how blackberries and ripe persimmons disappear, leaving the stomach empty and the landscape void of its sheltering green walls. But I’m not afraid.
“One day soon, I’ll command my clumsy, lanky legs. They’ll have become strong and sure, easily leaping a 6 foot fence from a standing position, 10 if I get a running start. My large, veined ears will turn 180 degrees and tremble at the howl of the coyote, and my nose will sniff out an acorn buried beneath inches of snow. I have superior instincts. Already I can distinguish Safety from all that it’s not. Did you know my antlers can grow more than 1/2 inch per day?
“By this time next year, I may have come nose to nose with the smoking arms of metal that smell of sulphur. I may have seen death by then, have smelled the bones of one of my own. I’m told how the honied light on the lake dims and grays, how the water becomes crunchy and harder to swallow, but I’m prepared.
See here? I practice my snorts and stomps, learn to interpret shadow and rustles. Even now, my cloven hooves can trot across fallen twigs without causing a single snap.
“I can tell you fear for me, Strange Empathic Being, but you needn’t worry. I’m in training now, and there’s no going back. If you visit me again when Winter’s white palm has turned over to reveal the brown knuckles of Spring, you’ll find me wiser and more skilled, having practiced Living in the dark.
“I trust the Good Mother’s promise to return the light, the warmth, the abundance when I most need it. Do you?
“There comes a renewal, Human, a restoring, A Giving Back and then some of all we thought was taken. It happens whether or not you think you deserve it, and whether you believe it or not, though believing makes the waiting easier.
“If you Humans can entrust me, and those like me, to the care of the Season-Changer, can you not entrust your children, your lover, your friends…