The sixteen hours I spent waiting, with my daughter in unbearable pain, for the hospital to have a free operating theatre, are sixteen hours I hope I never have to repeat. Locked together in despair, we repeated our separate mantras,
it hurts so much…. it hurts so much….
it’s going to be all right…… it’s going to be all right…..
ineffectual vocalisations of the deepest pain and of maternal helplessness.
Between hospital visits a few days later, I decide that both I and the dogs need a long walk. We pass the wiggly hedge full of snaking alder and dainty hazel catkins. (The beginnings of a painting of it lie unfinished in my studio) We feel the pleasure of our leg muscles stretching as we stride along the road, then we jinx right, through the hedge and out towards the pit hole. I’m beginning to feel more normal.
The dogs find the deer before I do. Stretched out, dead, at the foot of a field maple. The earth rubbed smooth by it’s legs and feet. It’s mouth slightly open, foamy spittle, dry on it’s chin. The glimpse of a pale pink tongue. A black stain coming from it’s back end. A perfect roe buck. Shot in the gut by a poacher. I stare numbly. I see in detail the neat hooves which leave the tracks I know so well. I see the texture of the hair. I see his crown, his velvet antlers. Budded and folding and strange. His slow agonizing death is plainly visible. The horror of his pain thumps in my head. A blackbird has been shouting in alarm since I arrived and I realise there’s no place for me at this outraged woodland grave. Ashamed of the entire human race, I hang my head and leave.
Later as I sit by Ruby’s bed, watching as she floats in and out of sleep, my exhausted mind flickers and flashes with thoughts of violence, of agony quietly endured, of the deserted pit hole, of the untimely grave of a gentle king, lying dead, still crowned with velvet.