By Chris Kunze, SCN

I awoke early, my bike already stowed in my car, awaiting the thrill of a ride.   Today, my bike has the personality of a puppy-dog who only needs to hear the slightest rattle of the leash to unleash the excitement of what she knows lies ahead.   You see, I have been in quarantine for many days, therefore so has my bike. With quarantine over, we both feel the sense of freedom, exhilaration, and simple wonder at earth’s beauty that beckons us.

As my bike and I set out, the sun is barely above the horizon and there is an eerie fog covering. It is quiet except for the bird-song that delights in a new day and invites everything else to feel and give voice to this same delight.   It is a perfect morning to ride through Floyds Fork, alongside Beckley Creek, across the wild greenspace of Pope Lick that leads to The Strand—several miles winding through riparian forest and agricultural fields. We are led toward Turkey Run, then Broad Run, both offering challenging terrain with forested hills and dramatic views. (The names alone are enough to make one smile!)

My bike and I are settling into our ride, strolling along the creek when a deer comes across our path—rather we are coming across her path. She rushes into the thicket as my heart takes a leap of joy at the sight of this gentle creature offering a sweet kindness to me. You see, the deer and I have a history and she has become a simple reminder that God is with me, God is near.

When I was at the beginning of my journey of entering Religious Life, I escaped to a wooded area of Nazareth where our Motherhouse is located.   The next day I would become a Candidate with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and I wondered if I was making the right choice. As my consternation grew, I said to God, “I don’t often ask for signs, but I am going to do so now: please send me a deer to know that this is indeed the path I am to take.” The grounds of Nazareth are ripe with deer, so seeing one or many was quite common. As I sat quietly in the woods, jolting my head toward every rustle or crackle in the forest, no deer showed herself to me that day nor the entire weekend.   Despite the lack of a deer sighting, however, I found enough peace to make the step into Candidacy, forgetting about my request to God for a deer sign. One year later I am again at Nazareth for a formation weekend in which I will be recommitting to journey another year as a Candidate. While walking out in the field, and with no particular thoughts that I can recall, there he was—a large buck bolting its head up to look straight at me, yet remaining still.   We just stood looking at one another and the memory of my request for a deer sign came flooding back to me.   All I could do was laugh and exclaim, “Well, God, you’re a little late!” Forevermore the deer will capture my attention and announce that God is present even when it doesn’t seem so.

This sweet kindness of seeing my deer friend happens not just once on this ride, but five more times my bike and I sight a deer, crossing paths and showing up grazing far off in the field. Even more, other creatures decide to greet us this day! Two wild turkeys bask in the tall grass, a turtle slowly edges her way across the path, a multitude of rabbits skid into the brush, and finally an Indigo Bunting allows us to catch a glimpse of his rich blue hue fluttering past. Oh the creatures we meet, my bike and I!

As we round the corner and arrive at our stopping point, I feel my puppy-dog bike now calmed and ready for rest. So, too, my heart.