It was the hardest winter we had since moving near Bear Mountain nearly five years ago, two urbanites nesting in our piece of natural heaven, where every sighting of wild turkey and deer, ducks and ducklings, hawks and foxes, bear and more bear, stilled our hearts.
But nothing like the sight of her.
She first hobbled up our front yard one Christmas morning, curious open eyes, alert ears and a twisted left leg hanging away from the others, as if it knew it was not wanted.
She was swollen with what we know now as her fawn, and she sniffed our trays of food as we walked past her, amazed at her courage, her defiance.
And she won.
Every day she came to visit to get her snack of carrots and whatever scraps of organic vegetables we had. She became Delia. And when she disappeared in the late spring, we wondered.
I spoke to the local vet, the police and anyone I could Google about deer and New York State habitats, but everyone said they do not take grown deer, that it would be hard for her to survive with a broken hind leg, as that is their source of speed, their built-in springboard.
Every day we looked, and in early summer, she came with a scrappy newborn at her side.
Deirdre she would be.
I came to measure my life, my strength, my own resilience with each arrival of Delia, through storms laden with snow or burdened with rain. She came closer and closer to me with each feeding, and I could see, and often listened to the wisdom in her eyes.
I used her as a sign. My totem, my answer to the heavy questions and challenges often given to prayer. If I see her tonight resting on my lawn, that would be my sign.
My questions were often answered.
Delia was a pariah of the family she roamed with, but a leader just the same.
As the seasons marched, she bought more and more of her friends and their fawns taking hesitant first steps and daily feedings in the open familiarity of our front yard.
The February storm of 2011 was the last we would see of her. It was a hefty 12 footer, a repeat offender of an earlier storm, and I had chopped everything I had, anticipating her, willing her to come, to be my sign.
To this day, when an obstacle rears itself, no matter how incidental it may be, I envision Delia crossing the road, rounding the bushes and snow piles, hobbling a path through deep new snow to my doorstep, my scraps her only sustenance, letting her fawn eat first, looking out for the others, sharing when they arrived.
They came because she cometh.