translating the deer, from James Welch

“’Who’s alone?  The deer come—in the evenings—they come to feed on the other side of the ditch.  I can hear them.  When they whistle, I whistle back.’

‘And do they understand you?’  I said mockingly.

‘Mostly—I can understand most of them.’

‘What do they talk about?’

‘It’s difficult…About ordinary things, but some of them are hard to understand.’

‘But do they talk about the weather?’

‘No, no, not that.  They leave that to men.’  He sucked on his lips.  ‘No, they seem to talk mostly about…They are not happy.’

‘Not happy?  But surely to a deer one year is as good as the next.  How do you mean?’

‘Things change—things have changed.  They are not happy.’

‘Ah, a matter of seasons!  When their bellies are full, they remember when the feed was not so good—and when they    are cold, they remember…’

‘No!’  The sharpness of his own voice startled him.  ‘I mean, it goes deeper than that.  They are not happy with the way things are.  They know what a bad time it is.  They can tell by the moon when the world is cockeyed.’

‘But that’s impossible.’

‘They understand the signs.  This earth is cockeyed…
…sometimes it seems that one has to lean into the wind to stand straight.’”

-conversation with Yellow Calf from Winter in the Blood, by James Welch


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