Soft breaths reverberate slowly around the room, circling the spaces where the air drifts in from the open window. My eyes are wide open. My sisters are all up in the top bunk, my parents sleep quietly on the bed below. I lay silent in the chair and listen to the sound of their nap and feel vaguely jealous that we can’t all dream together.

The Montana cabin has a sweet, natural smell and is scattered with toys and belongings from my family. It feels perfect in a way that is hard to describe when you’re eight. The combination of the Sunday afternoon, the security of my family existing in one place so peacefully, and the slight smell of last night’s campfire. It is perfect.

A noise comes in from outside of the window and I feel startled out of my trance of harmony. As I peer out from my little couch fortress I see a mass of sudden movement up the mountain. Terror strikes me as I sit up to get a better look. Just as my mouth begins to part in a warning, I see.

Two gargantuan bucks are locked in a tense stare and their antlers whip, push, and pull against each other. Ten other deer stand in a circle around the fray and nervously step from foot to foot as if to say, FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT. The bucks and their battle ground is over the huge salt lick that is up near the outhouse (an outhouse that gave me nightmares at night). I watch as they dance over it and around it in an intricate match of strength and will. I watched in awe, and as minutes ticked by, I realized how strong and beautiful nature and animals can be. It’s amazing that this separate world apart from society exists, and that it has existed every day of my life–without my knowledge of it. The thought of this group of deer vying for power and authority and love in this separate world made my world seem bigger and smaller at the same time. Like my little girl problems and the problems of the world seemed less significant, but the hugeness of life–of mine and of every individual being–seemed more clear.

As I watch, I glance over to my family, still all lying peacefully asleep in their beds. I gaze at the aged wood that creates the walls of my small place, and I feel whole. Maybe once everyone wakes up, we’ll go catch frogs in the stream.