There was a beautiful stag lying on the floor of the wood, it had obviously been lying there for some time. My arriving made it panic, it thrashed its head about madly but couldn’t move its body. I hadn’t seen it till I turned the corner, it shocked me. It was dying slowly.
i pulled away and circled it from a distance. I couldn’t see any wound, there was no blood. It was a male, quite young I think, and well fed. He lay under the oak tree I drew last September and just before the beech tree where I had found the dead pigeon that moved with maggots. How odd that I should see two deaths in the same part of the wood. At the time I saw the pigeon I was worried about my dog dying, the dying stag brought that back to me, the night spent listening to him gasping for breath, his beloved food left in the bowl, stroking him on the vets table as they gave him the final injection. I’m told he was buried under a rose bush.
The stag seemed symbolic somehow, I felt the woods telling me an old story.
If I see the death of the stag as an offering to Jupiter under his symbol, the oak, does that make it seem more just?
It is not that I mind things dying, things have to die, but why was I there to see its slow death? I told Lou and Mike who own the woods, and took them to the spot where he lay. They considered trying to speed up his death but weren’t sure how. A phone call to a friend who knows about such things told them to leave him, stags are strong and hard to kill, we may have just made his death more horrific. When I got back to the cabin I gave a little prayer for him, to whichever god was listening.
At 10 the next morning Mike reported that the stag was still alive. I didn’t go and see him, didn’t want to frighten him any more. At 4 in the afternoon Mike visited again and reported him dead. I went up into the wood to see for myself. The area stank now. Mike had moved the body from its original position and dragged it into some bushes, its eyes had glazed over and insects were clustering around the edges. A very handsome black Beetle was determined to climb onto the body and after repeated attempts triumphantly strolled across its right shoulder with its fine petrol blue legs. The flies were gathering, this was now food.
Not an offering to Jupiter or any other human God, but an offering to the woods.