Luther College is wonderful because of who you’ll meet, but the students, the professors, the faculty, and the staff aren’t the only ones on campus. No, we have a whole cohort of furry and feathered friends as well. Chipper chipmunks dart about, delighting with their antics and dizzying speed. They are offset by dower crows, grumbling from the treetops. If you’re walking in a quiet place at night, you may be lucky enough to catch sight of one of our rabbits, out for a bite to eat in the security of darkness. With nose and ears anxiously atwitch, it will dart away at your approach.
Of course, the most familiar wildlife is the Luther College squirrel. Famously domesticated, they sit back, gnawing on acorns and watching you walk between classes like they own the place; although, they do still get antsy if you surprise them from behind. Many is the squirrel I have spooked who has been stuck with his nose in the dirt and failed to hear my footsteps until, suddenly, I was upon him. POOF! Practically with a puff of smoke the little critter vanishes up a tree before I can blink.
All told, though, the squirrels seem to have a rollicking good time. All the livelong day they playfully chase each other up, down, and all around in circles; or else they munch lazily on some student’s dropped scrap of sugar cookie. I have heard them barking in conversation from barren winter treetops, and there are campus myths of finding some friendly enough to eat from your hand. What a life it leads, the Squirrelus Lutheranus domesticus.
There is one other more elusive, yet equally famous, family of creatures on campus: the deer. More serene than the chattering squirrels, and more noble too, they have been known to grace our environs at any time of day or night. On many occasions, I have walked out of the library doors or turned a corner, only to be met with three or four does nibbling at the grass. Just the other morning, I managed to capture the picture you can see on my way to breakfast.
Earlier this year, I had my most memorable experience with a member of our deer family. Late one night, I was out for a stroll and wandering through the trees below the art building when I was stopped in my tracks— something had moved! I squinted in the moonlight and took a step forward; then, taking form through a haze of branches, I discovered a doe gazing back at me. So odd, so peaceful. We each stood planted for five minutes, unmoving and evaluating each other. At last, the deer hesitantly turned and began to move away, dipping her head to taste the dewy grass every so often. For my part, I too turned and returned to my room, feeling a little wiser.