You might remember the post “Discovering a Woodpecker Fledgling” where I found a tiny woodpecker fledgling just before dark. By dusk, and still not seeing any parents around, I thought the baby bird would be safer in our house for the night. The next morning at dawn, I would place it back in the grass where I found it near the fallen tree below the slope. But, after it put up a big fuss in the house, I scrapped that plan and took the little fellow back to the area where I found it, placing it on the branch of a slender tree and hoping the leaves would give it cover and keep it safe for the night.
The next morning, I spent a lot of time searching for my little charge. I crawled under the branches of the fallen tree, thinking he may have tumbled from the limb I had placed him on the night before. I searched up and down and all around the nearby trees. At one point, I decided to rest and just sit silently on the trunk of the fallen tree. Perhaps if I waited very still, I would hear the soft whistle of my little friend. After all, that is how I found him in the first place.
It wasn’t long before I was finding the bark of the tree quite unfriendly to my behind. My thin shorts did not offer much of a barrier to the knobby bark of the fallen hackberry, and the pesky gnats had discovered me as well. I began swatting in annoyance wondering how on earth anything managed to live in this environment with insects attacking constantly. I turned to Daisy deer (who had joined me earlier in the morning) as she grazed around nearby, thinking I might discover some answer. But Daisy seemed oblivious of the insects that hung about her, browsing on without a care in the world. Just as I was accepting my human nature and irritation at this point and had decided to flee the bugs and just give up on the fledgling, I heard the slight whistling noise of my little friend! I found him clinging to the trunk of a slender tree nearby, and had captured only a few photos of him when I felt the presence of something… someone, watching me!
As I rose from the squatting position I held while photographing the baby woodpecker, I saw a familiar red coat just a few yards away from me. But this wasn’t Daisy deer. It was another deer that I had seen at the feeder numerous times. I called her Scarlet, because she had a huge scar on her left, rear flank. She was an easy deer to pick out in a crowd – technically of course, a group of deer is a herd – but the thing is, I know the deer that frequent our woods, and Scarlet had a look all her own. She was not particularly pretty. Her eyes looked worn and tired. She always seemed to have ticks on her face and she had a lump on her lower jaw. She was usually very cautious when approaching the feeder and water tub. Knowing her skittish ways, I couldn’t imagine why she had not run off yet!
Scarlet stood just yards away, staring at me for what seemed an eternity. Finally, I looked downward and moved slowly to a sitting position on the trunk of the downed tree. Not afraid, but not entirely comfortable either, I opted for the fallen tree as a place of shelter from which to observe this new visitor. If Scarlet became aggressive and tried to hoof me, I could always crawl underneath the limbs of the tree. Running for safety was no option. I knew she could outrun me easily and her hooves could slice me to shreds. I just prayed if I had to crawl under the limbs of the tree, there would be no snakes lurking about!
My motion in settling down to the tree, finally caused Miss Scarlet to begin stomping, and at the same time, snorting at me. If you have ever heard a deer snort, it is quite an interesting phenomenon. The deer forces air out of its nostrils very fast, emitting a loud and powerful whistling, whooshing sound. Couple that with the acoustics of our woodland bottom, which sits in a kind of bowl-shaped area, and the sound can be extremely eerie – a lot like what one might imagine in a scene of the movie, “Creature from the Black Lagoon”! Well, at least if one were as nervous as I was this particular morning, that might be a scene that would come to mind.
At this point, I could not understand why Scarlet was snorting at me, and yet still heading my direction! Usually, the snort is an instinctive reaction to danger. I have heard deer snort as they leap away from danger, alerting other deer. Was Scarlet warning Daisy of human danger, and creating a diversion for her escape? Was she going to attack me? Answering none of these questions, Miss Scarlet maintained her ground just yards away, stomping and snorting repeatedly. I began to worry.
As I sat on the tree trunk, it occurred to me that maybe Miss Scarlett did not sense danger at all, but was simply expressing that I was not a normal fixture of her environment. After all, would she not have run off by now? Perhaps Daisy’s presence calmed her and gave her reason to feel safe. I lifted my camera, thankful to have the zoom lens attached. Miss Scarlet carefully moved past me, stomping, but snorting less frequently than before. Thankfully, the clicking of the camera did not seem to bother her.
The zoom lens I use is a heavy attachment, and before long my arms were aching and trembling with weakness. When I finally brought the camera down to my chest, I was careful not to make eye contact with Miss Scarlet. I certainly did not wish for her to think I was challenging her in any manner. I simply hoped to manage a few good photographs as she moved by. She appeared to head to the corn feeder, but she could never seem to relax enough to move on in to eat.
Daisy, who had been alertly watching Scarlet this whole time, continued to stare at her as if to say, “What is your worry? That’s my mama. She wouldn’t hurt you”. Lacking the same blind love for this human, Miss Scarlet began to move back down the same route from which she had come. The stomping continued, but she no longer snorted. As she moved past me, I was able to get a better look at her through the camera lens. She quickly crossed under the fence, then turned around slowly and stared at me. I avoided staring back at her, not wanting to react in any type of aggressive manner. I respected her presence, and was filled with elation at being so close to such a beautiful, large, wild animal. Finally, I stood up and began walking up the slope to the house. I heard Scarlet begin snorting again and looked back to see her tail flagging (raised and showing the white underside) as she leapt high above the underbrush, bounding off to the pecan orchard beyond.
As I thought about this experience and researched deer totems and spirit meanings later that morning, this was the one thought that came to me – “trust one’s instinct”. Miss Scarlet proceeded that morning only because her instinct indicated no immediate danger. She trusted her instinct… and she accepted my presence. This is one facet of my life where I have struggled time and again. I often rely on statistics, referrals, information from outside sources – all truths of the past – instead of following my gut… my inner spirit. In doing so, I often made poor choices, trusting others and situations based solely on supposed facts or reputable sources. As a result, I would find myself disappointed at least, and hurt or even brutalized by people I trusted at worst.
These hurts and disappointments eventually caused me to reject close relationships with most everyone in my life. I decided if I could not trust family or friends to treat me well, then how could I possibly accept anyone as safe? Miss Scarlet did not rely on past experiences with predators, nor did she have suspicious thoughts. She simply followed instinct and made choices based on the present moment. She accepted my presence and, though careful, she moved forth, investigating this strange yet interesting life form. To me, this experience was not about me proving to Scarlet that I was trustworthy. Instead, it was about Miss Scarlet showing me the reason to trust my instinct… the reason to trust the moment as it presents itself, without expectation and without fear of past events.
A month later, I found Miss Scarlet cautiously approaching the water tub and, this time, she brought her two little fawns along! This told me she trusted the area enough to bring her twins to feed and water. It was amazing and joyous to watch her little ones frolic while she stopped to nibble some corn and quench her thirst. Respecting her trust of the area, and wishing to keep it a place where her instinct provide positive vibes, I took great pains to photograph her and her twins without making my presence known. After all, my experience with Scarlet on that special day not long ago, was one in many interactions with nature, and with my Daisy deer, that have helped to teach me to be still and listen to my inner spirit.
With Daisy and Miss Scarlet as my teachers, I am learning to listen to my instinct, which speaks of gentleness and silence when dealing with nature. Maybe one day, I will learn to let that instinct guide me in my dealings with humans – to accept and face the moment, but quickly move on without dwelling on the past, to experience the next moment without expectation. Have you stopped to listen to your gut feelings lately? These feelings are the voice of your inner spirit. What are they telling you about your thoughts and decisions… your expectations of the present moment, the next moment – of life?
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…