Afternoon of the Fawn

There is a soft crackle of a branch in the hardwoods next to a sylvan glade.

I lift my head at a slow pace as something squeezes my heart.  A doe steps out of the elongated shadows of the trees.  She stops and sniffs the chill air of late spring, her nostrils moist and ebony. Her ears twist into parabolic cones and search for sounds inaudible to humans.

I freeze against the bark of an oak that serves as my backrest.  My heart pumps fast and throbs in my temples and in my ears like a quickened metronome.

Such a beautiful and delicate sight, with the ever wary doe tiptoeing just ahead of her dappled fawn.  Its little tail flicks and twitches with each tiny step and I am struck with its blooming grace and poise as it follows its mother down towards my pond.  The squirrels go silent for a few moments until doe and fawn have passed, then begin to claw their way up the oak trunks as if to get a better perspective.

I hold my breath and watch without moving my head or eyes. I am wearing camouflage, hat, shirt and pants.  And, I’m leaning against a tree, so there is no human silhouette for doe or fawn to see.

The doe stops and looks back at her fawn.  The fawn wags its tail in a silent greeting. The doe seems reassured and takes a few more steps down the gradual slope.  Moving pictures on a sylvan painting.  The two creatures move downslope with careful steps.  Their progress is slow and gradual as if they had captured time and slowed it down. I let out a slow breath and continue to watch, enthralled by the simple beauty of the fawn as it flows through thin beams of sunlight on spindly legs.

At the pond, the doe stops and scans her surroundings as the fawn romps up to the edge of the water next to the mother doe.

They drink and lift their heads in alternate bobs, their nostrils sniffing the air, their rubbery nostrils twisting like hollow fingers.  The pond glistens with ripples where they have disturbed the pond with their whiskery muzzles.

The fawn’s tail swings back and forth like a small furry pendulum.  It straddles the grass with side-spread hind legs and the doe nods as if in approval.

I think of Claude DeBussy and his sweet prelude to L’apris midi d’un faun and the blended strains of his composition weave through my mind as the doe and fawn finish their drinks and wander to the edge of the timber.  The fawn lies down and curls up, its legs tucked under its dappled body.  Sunlight flows through the vacancies in the trees and the fawn becomes invisible.  Its spots are just dabs of sunlight on a forest floor.  The doe stands guard, a silent sentinel, reading the scents with quivering nostrils and listening with coned ears limned by the soft flow of sunlight among the fine hairs that line her comely ears.

This is my afternoon and theirs.  Somehow, we belong to these moments as kindred spirits.  It is a small brief world, but a beautiful one, with just the three of us here in this little corner of Eden.

I treasure this and pass along the images as I would show you an old album of photographs taken down from the dusty shelf of memory.  The pictures seem somehow ancient and timeless, but full of life and remembrance.

This is all I can do.  This is all I have just now.

Jory Sherman is author of Hills of Eden.

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