The Stag and the Doe
Article ID: 13976
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,420
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Posted: June 6th. 2010
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Deep in an enchanted forest my homestead lies, and the gloaming was near, the air was just cool and sweet enough to make it impossible to go inside. And Aval, my great horse of 18 hands, standing eight feet tall at the ears, was as eager as I to wander into the wood. And so I set aside my work of planting young raspberry canes in a new berry bed a bit early and walked him down from the Highland Meadow where he passes the spring among new grass and a seasonal pond. I led him to the grounds beside the woodshop, currently doubling as a tack shop, and got his saddle and bridle.
The late day was calm, the air fragrant and soothing. Though darkness was not far, the atmosphere called for calm and patience. I took my time scraping Aval's great hooves and combed him with massage brush and fine brush. The big brute is still shedding his winter coat and roan fur ghosted away upon the slight breeze emerging from the spruce and birch woods that surround the cottage. I threw his saddle blanket over him and then his saddle, patiently tightening the girth while tempting him with some homemade molasses cookies that Daphne baked for him. I fitted his bitless bridle--who needs a bit to control a horse? If you love the horse, it will willingly do what you ask. And when all was said and done and the sun would fall in less than an hour, I climbed up into his high saddle and waved goodbye to Daphne, still shaping beds out in the new berry garden.
Aval started off into the sweet early evening air, and in a few minutes we were off the main section of Twa Corbies' Hollow, beyond the cottage and the barn, the chicken coop and the goats' meadow green and rich due to its southern exposure and fortuitous spring. Pigeons were coming to the barn to roost and nighthawks were setting out. In the far woods, an owl hooted, accompanied by a dove too silly to quiet herself in the presence of the predator. Aval's ears were forward, horse body language for "happy", and we road up a dirt path to were it split and turned east onto a rarely used way.
Calmly we traveled on and soon the last meadow of the Hollow gave way to woods, young forest on the left and old forest of maples and birch and oak on the right. Shadows grew long and cool, promising mystery, and more than once I have seen strange lights dance among them, but not this evening.
But there was a sound from the old wood, a crack of a branch, a muffled scudding upon the duff of the forest floor. I halted Aval and looked right. I wasn't afraid. The woods are my home, the wild places where I have passed all my life. And I rode a horse that weighed nearly a ton. Not even a bear or a pack of coyotes could threaten us.
Then she ghosted over a branch, not fifty paces away, flowing liquidly as she leapt over a great windfallen branch. A doe, silent as a whisper, gentle as a breeze, delicate as beauty. And a moment later a great stag leapt the same branch and landed beside her, graceful also, but in a strong, very masculine way. They paused and watched me in utter stillness, just as I contemplated them. A long time passed, or a moment. I am not sure. I only know the moment was sacred.
A slight touch of my boots to Aval's flanks and he walked on, calmly. I watched the path but kept my eyes in the forest as well. And to my amazement the doe and stag kept pace with us, staying off the path, in the settling shadow of the woods. I rode Aval up the mountain and the doe and stag followed us all the way.
At last, my way led north, through a break to the old cabin where I sometimes like to go and camp or contemplate. I halted Aval again and inclined my head to the pair of deer and they watched from the silence of the wood. Another push to the flanks and Aval passed an old rusted gate and we rode down a long trail out to the cabin.
The cabin sat in a grove of truly ancient maples. Quiet and surreal the woods were, near the summit of the mountain. Except for the sound of the songbirds of evening that sang of elder mysteries and enchantment that must have been here since the first twilight of the world. I sat upon Aval, facing west, and together we watched the ruby sun go below the horizon, Aval occasionally stealing a tuft of tender spring grass.
Then we turned back toward the Hollow, and I urged Aval into an easy trot. Over meadows of wild blueberry, past rabbits feasting upon sweet spring green. Then again to the foot of the old wood beside the path, but the doe and the stag were now not there.
Who were they, this pair? And why would such shy creatures follow beside me, a large man on an enormous horse whose ancestors were bred for war. I have no illusions and know Aval and I make an intimidating sight, even though we would harm nothing in this sacred wood. But most of all I wondered why I felt such kindred with these two deer, two among many that grace this forest.
It was a living oracle, a shaman's vision, a wood witch's dream. Sometimes this forest gives me such, and they are precious moments. And it is for this reason, these summits in life, for which I have lived my days in the wild places and follow the way of the Green Man and keep to the Old Ways. He Who Walks Among the Trees, such gifts as these come from him and the Lady, Brighid. And they are more valuable than gold.
Copyright: Copyright 2010 Cliff Seruntine
Location: Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Website: Facebook Group: Twa Corbies' Hollow Mythic Earth Centre
Author's Profile: To learn more about Cliff - Click HERE
Bio: Cliff Seruntine is the author of the book "The Lore of the Bard" as well as numerous articles on the paranormal. A regular contributor for Llewellyn's Witches Calendar, Cliff resides with his wife and two children on an organically run homestead in the wooded highlands of Nova Scotia.
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