IF YOU SEE THE WHITE FAWNS
An enchantment tale
Dorothy A. Bell
Dawn would break soon, a quiet anticipation hanging in the air, the only sound, a gentle drip, drip, as dew slid off tree bows and fern fronds to the forest floor. The Giant Cedar Forest held on to the midnight fog. Soon the vapor would thin, escape into the boughs, dissipate in the sunlight of a new day.
For two days the maid, Hummingbird, had entered the wood before dawn. For two mornings, she crouched at the base of the Great Grandfather of all the Cedar that lived here at the edge of the small, rippling creek. On this third morning, as on the two mornings before, she willed herself to become a large, russet colored mushroom.
Squatting down on her haunches, she pulled her robe of Elk hide close about her. Each morning she remembered to thank her father for giving her this fine cloak upon her last birthday, her sixteenth winter.
She tucked her feet, warm in moccasins lined with rabbit fur, close under her and wrapped her arms tight around her knees. Her black hair fell over her face, cascading down onto the mud at the edge of the stream. Clearing her mind, stilling her thoughts, she became a simple mushroom.
Allowing herself to open one eye, she observed the beautiful doe and her twin white fawns. She’d waited each morning for them to come down to graze and drink from the stream before sunrise, before any bird or squirrel disturbed the peace.
For two mornings she’d watched undetected as the doe and her rare, white offspring had come so quietly and gently down to the stream.
Upon the first morning, she couldn’t believe her attempt to become a mushroom would fool them. The doe had appeared suspicious. Hummingbird held her breath when the doe moved out of the wood, becoming still for several seconds, ears pivoting from side to side and back and forth, her large brown eyes searching the woods on all sides.
Eventually, the doe cautiously moved out into the water and lowered her head to drink, but still vigilant. Picking up her head, she flicked her white tail, giving her fawns the signal, telling them they would be safe here in this part of the wood.
On the second day, the doe and her fawns came slowly to the stream. They ate briefly, then moved on past the mushroom, disappearing back into the trees.
Hummingbird willed herself to breathe carefully and quietly, there must be no sound from her to give the doe and her fawns a start. How beautiful were the fawns, white, and now that Hummingbird could see them up close, among their white coat were even whiter spots. Their eyes were of the lightest blue, like crystal reflecting a summer sky. Their noses were perfectly pink with not a spot of dirt. This morning they moved out and down the stream, coming to stand directly before her.
Hummingbird waited to see what it all could mean, for she had heard many tales of all-white animals, and they always held great power. If anyone were fortunate enough to see one, just a glimpse of one, then their life would be changed. She was waiting to see what change her life would take. Surely, it would take a dramatic turn after seeing the fawns, watching them for three days. Surely, the message would become clear today, for all things were revealed upon the third day. It always happened that way in the tall tales told by the Old Ones.
The doe ambled over to an old, gnarled, cedar stump on the opposite bank and began to nibble at the base. With her big brown eyes half-closed, the doe nibbled daintily at the old, mossy roots of the stump, which stretched out into the little stream.
Watching, holding her breath, Hummingbird nearly lost her concentration and her mushroomness, detecting movement in one of the gnarly roots of the stump.
Yes! The roots were not roots but knobby toes, toes of an Old One. Hummingbird, fighting hard to stay the mushroom, looking through her hair, could make out muddy toes, knotted knees, and the buffalo robe that surrounded the wrinkled and well-weathered body of the Medicine Woman of her people, WalkingMoon.
Quickly, Hummingbird closed her eye, hoping the Medicine Woman’s black, all seeing orbs had not discovered her ruse. She stilled her heart and narrowed her breathing.
For two days that weathered, hallowed old stump had sat on the far side of the stream. Had the Medicine Woman seen her come down to the water’s edge? Why had she not laughed at her foolish attempt to become a mushroom? Why had the old woman not ordered her to leave? Why had she not sent her home, declare her unworthy of seeing the white fawns, a child too young, too silly, to understand their meaning? Why had the Old Medicine Woman allowed her to stay?
With her eyes closed, Hummingbird could feel the warmth of a creature coming near. She heard the delicate sounds of the narrow hooves of one of the fawns come to stand close to her. The fawn began to nibble at her elk robe, taking small delicate little bites.
She couldn’t move. She wanted to cry out in wonder. She had to see, she had to. Opening her eyes to mere slits, she looked through her veil of black hair. Across from her, WalkingMoon, her mouth wide, straight white teeth showing, sat smiling in her direction.
The doe continued to nibble at the old woman’s toes, oblivious to her humanness, recognizing her only as a wizened, old, mossy, tasty stump.
The other twin had gone on to forage on the tender leaves of a young willow, it’s branches dripping with dew, hanging over the water’s edge.
A vapor rose up out of the stream to surround the willow. As the fawn tugged off one leaf, then another, the tree came to life, its leaves quaking.
Hummingbird closed her eyes, hoping she hadn’t given herself away. Taking the chance, she peeked across the stream toward WalkingMoon. The old woman had her black-eyed gaze fixed straight ahead. She still wore that disturbing grin on her well-lined and sallow face. Hummingbird didn’t doubt for a moment that the old crone knew the secret of it all.
A movement downstream caught Hummingbird’s attention. The willow swayed and shuddered. The brown willow limbs twined together, becoming sinewy arms. At the end of these decidedly masculine arms grew outstretched fingers, where tender leaves nervously fluttered as the fawn consumed them one by one.
The willow trunk had become a pair of legs, feet bare, toes buried in the mud, and well-muscled calves encased in fine, soft leather. Brown legs joined together at narrow hips, covered with a handsomely decorated, leather loincloth. Adorning the lean chest of the Warrior, a shield of wolf ribs where once Hummingbird had seen willow bark.
The Warrior’s arms were dark and ringed with bands of beaded hide. Around the Warrior’s sinewy neck, he wore a necklace of shells and hematite. Upon his handsome, chiseled face, he wore the look of superiority.
Hummingbird knew well this young Warrior. He was QuietFox, the great grandson of WalkingMoon, the Medicine Woman. He’d gone away when the leaves of the oak began to turn and returned home at the end of the last snow a Warrior and a man. He’d brought back with him scores of pelts, baskets of obsidian and flint, enough for all. Everyone considered him a wealthy man now.
He no longer looked at mushrooms like lowly Hummingbird. She’d been a child when he’d left. He would never give a thought to her upon his return.
As QuietFox took on his human form, Hummingbird withdrew further into her mushroomness, until she heard the outright laughter of the old Medicine Woman. Startled, Hummingbird looked up through her long, black hair, eyes wide to see the Medicine Woman looking directly at her. Hummingbird’s gaze darted to QuietFox and found him smiling at her too.
All this time, all three mornings, had he been there? Was he there, that tall straight willow, yesterday and the day before? Had he seen her foolish attempt to become a mushroom?
The Medicine Woman knew the answers to all of Hummingbird’s questions, and yet she laughed at her.
The doe stood by the old Woman, her brown eyes wide, staring in Hummingbird’s direction. The two fawns, who now stood directly at Hummingbird’s side, gazed at her, their pretty heads tilted to the side with open curiosity. And Hummingbird knew she was no longer a mushroom, she was Hummingbird, plain Hummingbird.
With her hair falling down to her waist, Hummingbird stood tall, bringing her head up, defiantly challenging the old woman and the Warrior to persist in their mockery of her.
The old woman rose to her feet and stepped into the stream, her laughter replaced with a sly smile.
The little white fawns ambled back toward their mother, who gently nuzzled them and gave them each a lick.
The Medicine Woman, her buffalo robe floating out upon the rippling water, motioned for QuietFox and Hummingbird to join her.
As the first ray of sunlight filtered into the dark, damp cedar forest, the birds awoke and began to sing. The bees and bugs unfurled their wings and began to buzz.
WalkingMoon motioned for Quietfox and Hummingbird to kneel down into the bed of the stream. In a strong, forceful voice the Medicine woman declared, “This stream is as the symbol of the Greater Stream of life. See how the water moves around us, always moving, changing. We cannot stop it. We should not stop it.”
Quiet-Fox gazed into Hummingbird’s eyes as his grandmother spoke.
“Hummingbird is now a woman of power. I give her the responsibility of keeping order and serenity wherever she goes.”
The Medicine Woman, her claw-like hands resting upon her great grandson’s head, proclaimed, “QuietFox, you will know the humility of all peoples, and of all animals great and small.
“Hummingbird will be known by her people as a woman of strength and wisdom.”
Smiling wisely, the Medicine Woman took their hands and joined them. “Quiet Fox, Hummingbird, you will work side by side for all time.”
With the light of day, the doe and her fawns slipped back into the wood. The vapor escaped into the giant boughs of the strong, tall, cedar taking all secrets with it into the clouds above the forest.