My beloved grandfather Arthur called Jack, had a hobby of hunting. In his late years, he retired in a cabin in the woods of Carinthia, where we, grandchildren, reached him for holidays. I remember us living immersed in nature, building huts in the middle of fir trees and imagining daring adventures that we would have overcome thanks to our animal allies: birds, squirrels, foxes, fawns. We talked to the trees and all the real and imaginary creatures of the forest. We were so happy!
I remember that grandfather took us with him on a hunting trip early one morning: an adult experience. But, of course, not all of the grandchildren could do it; it was a demanding experience: waking up before dawn, having our warm milk and apricot tart, and lining up like little elves with our loden capes behind the slow and precise steps of the grandfather.
We were sitting still in a small hollow in the middle of a group of young fir trees. Woe to breathe or move! It was cold, and certain voices of the woods in the dark and in the silence that gradually cleared up were frightening.
Then suddenly, the grandfather stands up and aims with the rifle. So we witnessed the sudden fall of that proud and majestic animal breathlessly, ruined to the ground and lying in fear of death. I still remember the blood flowing from his head and his big terrified eyes looking at me: why?
Hunting in my grandfather’s lineage was considered fine art, and my grandfather had many trophies in his hut. He was very proud of it. We would have dinner in a few days, the time to let out all traces of life from that beautiful animal that would be hung in the cellar and then slaughtered. I was very fond of Rehbraten with Knödel, chanterelle mushrooms in cream and berries until then. Now I could no longer think about that triumphal roast.
Nor, however, could I have permitted me to be angry with him because he was my beloved grandfather, who always taught us so many things and in often funny ways; no tears or questions were allowed. This experience was a grown-up thing, and he had warned us. So it was necessary to live it with detachment, ineluctable sense, pride.
On the other hand, I have never been able to forget the sense of injustice and prevarication, which became a feeling of shame that I carried inside me like numb energy throughout my life. I am fascinated and moved by the tenderness and incredible pride of the fawns. Of mine, I haven’t been for a long time.
I have always encountered deer and fawn as my power animals during shamanic journeys.
Years ago, the image of the fawn returned to my novel Terra Pane which, like other stories I have written, was cathartic in the resolution of many ‘invisible’ traumas like this one. It helped me recognise them, take note of them, and transform them.
I want to share an excerpt from the story to get you closer to my new creative path of trauma resolution.
“Méchin was worried about the military up there all alone in the cave. As soon as it was clear, she ran towards the fir trees at Pian’d la Charm and found him still asleep, all tight and crouching like a fox. She tried to wake him up, but he didn’t move; he was so stiff from the cold. She stayed there to watch until he woke up and slowly pulled her towards him to kiss her. He tried to explain to her that there were fawns around there if they wanted to wait a bit, that maybe they would catch one, to be lucky. They sat down near a small clearing, under some young fir trees, and listened.
He took her hand and stroked her finger by finger to count them. One thing was sure, Méchin felt he had many fingers, with all those complex numbers that he repeated in his foreign language. The soldier then extracted a dagger from his jacket with a horn handle and a sharp blade. She was enchanted; that dagger was so beautiful.
A very long time passed, then, suddenly from behind and with a light jump, the fawn had come out of the woods right above their heads. But, unfortunately, the snow muffled those light, fast movements. The soldier struck a blow with his dagger but missed the prey that had already escaped. Immediately after, a second fawn jumped out of the clearing, maybe it was the mother, and he instinctively took the rifle and shot her.
Méchin ran towards the instantly dead beast, eyes wide open and blood gushing over the white. Even the military now had frightened eyes because he had realised the huge mistake. It’s over. Now it’s over, he murmured in his language. They would hear that shot, and the partisans would run up from the township to kill him.
But he wanted to give that gift to that girl, Méchin.
He began to look around in fear, then, as if resigned to what was to happen, he took Méchin by the hand to take the roe fawn, and together they dragged the dead animal to the hut leaving a long red trail on the snow among the fir trees. He still had time to hang it by its paws and let life trickle down into the cauldron as he prepared it for the fire and the meal.
He sat down at the table and, with a piece of coal, wrote on the table something that women could not read: Heimat. It meant home, country, indelible affections. Then he took off his watch and gave it to Méchin before going out into the night. He never turned back, walking down that path where you began to hear the distant commotion.