Deer stalking

There is a place between the meadow and the river – a deep, time-hollowed path, banked with stone and the roots of great oaks, a dark and shady passage way, womblike and still. That is where he goes one morning, following the deer.

He awakes feeling unusually clear and refreshed and treads lightly across the dew-wet field. The brooding greyness of the sky pours into him. The wind-shivered beech trees and the supple, muscular rhythm of his body are of one movement. He startles a pair of deer, a young stag and a doe. They run in panicked circles not knowing which way to escape. Eventually they disappear into a thicket and across a stream into the next meadow, in the direction of the river. He follows.

There besides that river, in that deep and ancient hollow, he stands. Himself and not himself; listening, seeking, finding a being in this river and all that gathers to it, dwelling in this moment, and this moment, and this moment, flowing swiftly on. A barbed wire fence, strung along a line of oaks, shivers against a grey sky, threatening rain. Beyond, he spies the young stag. Crossing under the wire, he advances steadily towards him.

The stag cannot see nor hear him yet, nor smell him, for he is downwind. Yet he senses something and looks up ears erect. After a time he continues grazing and our hunter moves a few paces closer. They continue like this until the hunter is within thirty yards. It starts to rain. The stag is nervous now. The hunter sees the bright, white fur of his ears twitch through the thin veil of rain, sees him edge a little closer to the refuge of the trees. The hunter knows this game will soon end, and suddenly he sees his own vanity and his playfulness. He laughs out loud in the rain with a great outpouring of contained energy. The deer bolts.

He leaps over the barbed wire and into the trees. The hunter sees a mauve head moving swiftly along the river bank. Then the stag tears out of the trees and back into the meadow, circling him. The hunter is running too now for the sheer joy of it. The stag leaps high every third reach of those slender, muscular legs. The hunter cannot hope to follow.

Yet lying awake that night, the abundance of the day making his mind restless and furtive, he sees the deer galloping, stretching, and reaching, with every taut sinew and muscle. They reach into his dreams, beyond the borders of sleep.

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