My family drove past a mostly frozen lake in early spring. A doe and her fawn were crossing the thawing ice, but the ice broke and the mother fell into the freezing water. She thrashed and splashed her way to firmer ice and scrambled up, but the fawn was stranded on the far side of the open water. It was too far for the doe to swim back, and she stood on the ice in an agony of separation. The fawn skittered around on the brittle ice, but wouldn’t attempt to swim to his mother.
I can’t remember exactly how we rescued the fawn. I do remember getting long branches just in case Dad fell in. Maybe my sister was sent across the ice because she weighed less than Dad? The important thing was that we rescued the baby and found a tiny barn to put him in. My Mom and extra siblings went inside a big building, but one sister, our Dad, and I stayed in the shed.
I can’t remember how we got the shaman either, but if someone could find one, that would be my Dad. The old man came into the tiny barn after the sun was down and saw my sister and I playing with the baby. He laid out some interesting things on a rough table and told us to quit taming the deer. I was given the job of keeping it quiet, but told not to make friends with it. My sister and Dad sang and chanted with the shaman according to his directions.
It’s a pretty sing song cadence in American Indian prayers. The shaman rocked back and forth with his eyes closed, but my sister’s bright eyes took everything in while she played her part in the song. Dad seemed controlled and focused, and I held the fawn in place with the negative magnetism of my hands. Nobody told me how to do it. I just knew that my hands had energy to make him stay without touching. I was very serious about it.
This went on a long time. I had a lot of time to look at the fawn’s spots, eyes, ears, tail, feet, fur… I was lulled into the chant and both asleep and ultra alert at the same time. The fawn eventually laid down in the straw, and I sat beside him in the glow of the Coleman lantern.
I don’t know what nation the shaman was from (maybe Iroquois?), and I definitely didn’t know his language. Just the melodic syllables repeating in choruses, dried plants smoking in the air, waving feathers, more smoke, more singing, with the flute and a drum in between.
It could’ve gone on forever, but the doe appeared at last in the light cast through the open doorway. She was too nervous to enter, but the fawn knew she was there and stood up. The shaman gave me a nod, and I released him to his mother. They stood in the light for a moment and looked at the shaman before sliding into the dark woods.
The next day, I looked at a map and realized how far the doe had to travel to get around that huge lake. There were many inlets, and her path wasn’t easy. It’s no wonder it took so many hours for her to find her way to us.
I had a relationship with a shaman many, many years later. When I told him about this experience, I admitted that I always felt jealous my sister got to sing and pray for the doe’s return. He responded, “Did it ever occur to you that you were given the harder job?” Well, no, it hadn’t. But I like that idea, and feel very privileged to have had a place where I could observe magic.
This scratchboard art is small, 3 ¼” x 2”, but then, the fawn was small.