Just been for a lovely amble in my local woodland and came upon a roebuck – I was quiet enough not to alarm him. We both froze and stared at each other for a good ten minutes – then, incredibly, instead of dashing off, he stooped under a barbed wire fence and came nearer passing within ten or twenty feet of me. It was a real thrill – a natural blessing, and reminded me of this poem I wrote after a similar experience:
Roebuck in a Thicket
As I walked through the darkening wood
rain shadowed the shoulder of Solsbury
and wind worried the bare beech crowns.
The heavy air
weighed me down.
leaning upon an elder,
small yet firm enough to be my staff.
The wrinkled bark chaffed the whorls of my fingers.
Heartened I noticed buds breaking the twig tips.
A startled deer stood up,
a young buck of sapling tines,
yet wearing the coat of winter.
Freezing, holding breath
amid bronchial branches,
I made no hostile move.
The roebuck did not bolt,
he could not work me out.
For a full minute we stared at each other
in mirrored enchantment.
I tried to tell him I meant no harm,
that I was not the enemy.
Did Herne hear?
He began to walk towards me.
Reality buckled a little,
but our pact with nature was broken.
The deer thought better of it
and bounded away, into the forest tapestry,
antlers amongst the trees.
The freed waters came on its heels,
pattering through the canopy.
I let go of the young elder,
feeling the sap quickening within.
by a draught of the wild
I returned to my habitat,
the roebuck to his thicket.
Hampton Rocks, Bath, 2 February 2003
In the Celtic Tradition the appearance of the white hart foreshadowed love – who knows what this encounter portends…