The Fawn

Even now, her taste still haunts my hands, that beautiful newborn fawn, all those years ago, when I was skipping through the woods at twilight and almost fell over her. It was Mother’s Day, and I had just received a big blow from the woman who in my adult life had shown up to replicate all the old dynamics with my original mother. She had been taking a flower arranging class and called to tell me she was going to give her latest – and most beautiful – bouquet to me. We were to meet at Nestucca, a sanctuary where we both came often to attend silent retreats. But when she arrived, and I ran out to greet her, she plucked the flowers from her car and I caught my breath at their loveliness reaching out my arms to embrace both her and the radiant blossoms. She pulled her hand back and said, “I’ve decided these are for the altar, not for you.”

Some ancient disappointment bubbled up inside me as I nodded and tried to keep tears at bay. But when she was gone, I took off down the forest path, my heart ripped open at the excitement so quickly quashed, and I shambled through the brush, big, little girl tears bubbling out of my eyes. And somewhere along the way, I decided that no one could dampen the child spirit in me. That innocence remained, no matter the pain endured. And so half in defiance, half in an effort to console myself, I took off skipping along the laneways, pretending all was well in the world and that there must be, somewhere, mothers brimming with kindness and love.

And then I saw her, lying across the path like a spotted log. I thought I was imagining her at first, and then once I realized she was real, I expected her to race away into the grasses. But no, she just lay there, as I knelt down next to her, and she looked me directly in the eyes, a goddess almost, clear and open. Tentatively, I laid my hand on her back and gently stroked the length of her, her smooth coat silking my palm, her spine a long, delicate thread I caressed slowly. And still she did not move. I wondered if she was injured, if she wasn’t able to move, but she showed no fear, no trembling, just a complete and wide open trust to this giant that happened along her path.

I began singing lullabies to her, though I knew very few, not having grown up with them, so I conjured my own lyrics, my own off kilter tunes: I love you like the sky, I love you my-oh-my… on and on I warbled and she seemed to drink it in like warm milk. Like honey it was, there in the gloaming, night cushioning in on us like a threadbare shawl. On and on I sang, stroking, rocking, kissing her and oh, she gave me the same love in return. My heart transmuted its deep bruising into a celestial tune we both feasted on, like twin babes lost in the dark woods.

Yes, here I was, in the middle of my life, the little girl in me so radiantly alive and in this wild dream had appeared an exquisite reflection, a being so new to this world that she was nothing but innocence, and I could shower on her the love that my own grieving heart had so longed for.

It felt like a miracle from the Heavens, as we soothed each other, leaning close and more close, the night breeze serenading us, the looming clouds lowering themselves to listen. If she was injured, I told her, I’d stay by her side for as long as it took.

Who knows how long we lay together basking in a profound and singular love, a reciprocal song of comfort and ease floating between us?

And then her mother appeared in the hedges, watching the scene, not moving but clearly tuned into this strange and magical vision. I invited her over to join us but she seemed to say, you have your time and I will have mine. And I honored her kindness, a fairy tale mother who didn’t hoard, didn’t push out or away, but stayed true and patient, like a dream mother would.

Eventually, my little fawn stretched one tiny leg out before her, and then another, and slowly, carefully hooshed herself up on all fours, in a Bambi-ish motion. Her underbelly still wet from the earth where she’d lain, and without a hint of haste, she tottered off, a young nymph learning how to stand on her own in this new and mysterious world, towards her waiting mother.

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