For the past couple of months, I have not felt much urge to write. Oh, I had formulated plenty of ideas in my head about what to write, and even managed a good collection of photographs of nature through the past weeks, but my heart was heavy with other things. I was just not able to muster the desire to express myself in a post. Lately, I had been pondering some obstacles in my life – primarily, the expectation of how people or things should be. I became overwhelmed with the realization that I could no longer put so much personal and emotional stock into the notion that life should be logical and orderly. It was also becoming clear that I could not count on ordinary justice and, no matter how hard I tried, I would never completely understand why things happen as they do. With all these things weighing heavy on my mind, getting my head wrapped around the disappointment that I had brought upon myself, and finding the fortitude to change my way of thinking, was proving to be difficult.
In times like these, I find reassurance by tapping into my ability to walk in the woods with my camera and seek messages from nature. For the past two weeks, I had noticed vultures soaring high above with their healing messages of “Glide and soar!” and “Leave the carcass of troubles behind”. I also observed the Monarch and a few other species of butterfly making their migratory flight south. A few had stopped to linger in our woods, reminding me of the message to “rest” for a brief period before moving on. Along with the butterfly, the deer were visiting more frequently and, among Daisy deer’s little herd, I had found the message of “unexpected miracles” with the arrival of Willow, a late season fawn born to Daisy’s yearling doe, Spirit.
Spirit had kept her new little charge well-hidden for nearly a month before finally bringing Willow out. At that time, I was confused about the activity in the herd. Daisy often hoofed Spirit and Willow away from herself, Heidi and Dancer. And I witnessed Spirit also hoofing Willow from Daisy and her fawns. I later realized the importance of this was to keep Willow from wandering off from her mother. Spirit needed to keep a strong bond with Willow, separate from other does and fawns, lest Willow follow them and become lost. When I went to the canyon to photograph the deer during this time, I tried to be very respectful of the herd and maintained a distance in order to keep from upsetting their boundaries.
By the time Willow was nearly two months old, I began seeing this time of separation end, and all five deer began traveling together. Willow loved gamboling and racing with Heidi and Dancer and, though she was more than two months younger than the twins, she managed very well to keep up with them. She began eating greens and deer chow earlier than I had seen with other fawns. It was almost as if she realized she would have to grow up fast, with the arrival of fall and winter just around the corner.
One evening in late September, my heart sank. I saw Daisy’s little herd come in for water and feed, with Willow showing a pronounced limp. Through the binoculars I could see it was a grave injury. Somehow, Willow had ripped a deep gash from under her left front leg back into the chest cavity. My first thought was the scent of blood, and how much easier it would be for a predator to track her down. But in the next two weeks, with Spirit’s tender care keeping the wound clean, Willow’s limp completely disappeared. I even managed to witness Willow running normally. Photographs showed that her wound was scabbed over, and healing nicely. Also during that period, I frequently observed all five deer bedded down at night on the eastern part of the pasture – away from the wooded area under some scattered trees closer to a nearby street. I believe they were protecting Willow during this time, and knew it was less likely a predator would come so close to civilization.
Though a few hot days with ninety degree temperatures persisted into early October, Willow’s healing brought with it the falling of leaves and cooler nighttime temperatures. As the vegetation around them changed – with leaves turning red and gold and dropping to the ground to repaint the floor of the woodlands – so did the natural camouflage of the animals. Before the second week of October, Daisy’s fawns, Heidi and Dancer, had lost their spots completely, and Willow’s spots were beginning to fade as well. With autumn officially here, the deer, who sported a light, reddish coat of hair throughout the summer, were now emerging with thicker brown hair, stark white underbellies, and beautiful black fringe around the ears. For now, these were quiet, welcomed changes – but the chaos of the rut was looming.
On Tuesday morning of last week, I heard loud mooing of a deer in the distance. As the source of the sound neared, I saw Spirit emerging from the pecan orchard towards the feed and water area. She stopped briefly to eat, then set out again, up the slope and all around the property up top, then back down to the canyon and heading west into the woods. I saw her twice more that afternoon, again mooing loudly. I had heard a similar call when Daisy lost her little buck, Rowdy, the summer before. For me, there could be nothing more heart-breaking than to think of losing your child, and throughout Wednesday and Thursday Spirit’s search proceeded, this time with Daisy and the twins accompanying her. As I observed the diligent search, I kept hoping that maybe Willow had just followed another doe and fawn, as I had seen two other does and a fawn with Daisy’s herd at various times during late summer. By the evening of Thursday night, however, Spirit’s continual mooing came with less urgency. My heart was heavy and I could see a solemness to the little group that did not exist before.
At the feeders Friday evening, Daisy and the twins seemed to just nibble a bit, with their attention focused on Spirit, who ate a small amount of feed and then moved on to the neighbor’s bottom land to resume her search for Willow. When she returned, Spirit stopped briefly to eat again, then headed back to the pecan orchard. This time Daisy, Heidi, and Dancer followed. Spirit mooed softly, hesitating at a spot on the ground, before moving on as she had for three days now, hoping to catch some scent of Willow. And then something amazing happened. Daisy walked up to Spirit and began licking her neck. She licked her eyes and all around her face, while Heidi and Dancer began licking Spirit’s legs. It was the most beautiful observation of compassion and comfort that I had ever seen in nature. Spirit just closed her eyes and stood there – bathing in the love of her family. I watched with raw emotion, not having any idea how much time passed. Finally, Spirit opened her eyes and began to return Daisy’s licking. Daisy and Spirit had not engaged in mutual grooming since late May, just before Daisy had her babies. The grooming lasted for several minutes before Spirit turned to move on, nose once again to the ground, and heading west towards the river. Daisy and the twins followed.
I began my day yesterday morning with my usual squirrel feeding chores on the back porch. After dishing out a little avocado and pecan breakfast for Punkin and Gambini, I again had the opportunity to observe our little troop of four deer peacefully feeding down below. The woods were quiet, and Spirit was no longer calling out. Soon, Punkin the squirrel took off for the trees. Her brother, Gambini, was content to feast on morning glories and explore the back porch. Life on the ten-acre ranch, it seemed, had returned to normal.
Later that morning, my friend Ruthie stopped by for a quick visit and, as I walked her out the front door to leave, Ruthie spied three deer very near our house! It was Dancer, Spirit and a young buck with just one antler! How funny he looked with only one antler, putting on a fantastic prance while in hot pursuit of Spirit! In no time, it became apparent to me what was going on. For the younger bucks, the jousting and chasing of the deer rut had begun, and was occurring quite early this year. I can only surmise this buck lost its antler in a fight with another buck over territory or breeding rights to a doe. And with this activity of bucks pursuing does, I had even more understanding about what may have happened to Willow. Her disappearance might be as simple as getting caught up in the frenzied chase of the rut. I remembered how five-month-old Spirit remained alone for several days when Daisy disappeared during the rut last year. But Willow is just two months old… and not yet weaned. Somehow, this whole scenario did not seem fair to me. What a confusing time the rut must be for fawns.
These latest experiences and observations of the cycles of nature have shown me that life is no more “logical and orderly” for the creatures of the woodlands than it is for me in my own, human existence. I realize that I might never have answers or understanding about why things happen as they do. And, while I might view something as tragic or unjust at the time, it does not have to remain so in my mind or my heart. As a gentle reminder of this, my totem, the vulture, soars high above nearly every day, telling me to “Glide and soar! Leave your troubles and worries behind”. Vulture’s message is to find acceptance and joy while soaring in the moment of now, without expectation of some logical, orderly, or “just” outcome. Life simply is what it is in this moment – for me and you, for Spirit and Willow. Accepting this is the key to moving on with a loving spirit. Or, in this case, moving on with a loving Spirit…
© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…