I was busy cleaning up the back porch one cool October morning, when I happened to notice some activity down in the canyon. Daisy deer and her fawn Spirit had been at the feeders earlier that morning, and I had seen them leave, heading west on our property into the thicker part of the woods. Now I could see her orange collar moving in the distance as she appeared to be dodging another deer. It was Scarlet, a large doe who is a regular visitor to our feeders, and she was giving Daisy some trouble.
From the time we released Daisy into the wild, we observed her attempts to find company with other deer and fit into the herd. Always, she was hoofed off by older does, and even fawns and yearlings her own age seemed to oust her from their group. That first summer, finally, Daisy was able to find company with three spotted fawns. A set of twins that belonged to Scarlet and another fawn belonging to a doe I was not familiar with and rarely saw, seemed to enjoy being with Daisy. Apparently the mother does trusted Daisy to “babysit” their young.
I often saw Daisy and the fawns lazing in the shade near the water tub on hot days. The fawns dozed heavily in the afternoon warmth, while Daisy kept watch. In the evenings, Scarlet seemed not to mind Daisy tagging along with her and the twins, as long as she did not get too close. When that did happen, Scarlet’s slashing hooves came after Daisy with a vengeance. It was hard for me to watch, but I knew this was the world Daisy belonged to now, and that she must learn the ropes of hierarchy and dominance.
So on this October morning, I stuck around to watch Daisy and Scarlet carry on with some type of dominance ritual again. As usual, Daisy would side-step Scarlet, but she did not back off. She stood her ground. Then suddenly, they both rose up on their hind legs at the same time and went to battle with front hooves hitting and clacking in a ferocious manner! I felt both pride and astonishment as I watched. I could not say how long the clubbing match lasted – maybe ten or more seconds, maybe less. Daisy, being smaller, was backing away, still on her hind legs, but she did not give up the battle. Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, it was over, and they both dropped down and resumed normal grazing activity – as if nothing had happened! Scarlet eventually walked into the woods and Daisy made her way to the feeders.
This video is not of Daisy and Scarlet sparring, but is very similar to what I witnessed that morning. This video courtesy of thehump07 on YouTube.
Spirit had been watching the battle from about thirty feet away, and soon joined Daisy and I at the feeders, where I checked Daisy over for any wounds or marks. Amazingly, I found no visible injury resulting from the face to face combat I had just witnessed. More than anything, I was flabbergasted to see that does took part in sparring. I had seen plenty of photos of males sparring, either during the pre-rut season or the more aggressive sparring that happens over dominance and territory when the rut is in full swing. I felt quite certain with Daisy and Scarlet, the issue was to prove who was dominant. I am not sure who won. Daisy did the backing up while hoofing because she is smaller in size, but she did not walk off like Scarlet did. They had both gone down at the same time – just as they had both risen to the sparring match at the same moment. Perhaps it was just an exercise match to hone sparring skills. Maybe it wasn’t about winning at all.
One morning recently, I observed two young bucks down at the corn feeder. One was a six-point and the other was the seven-point buck we had been seeing around here since October. It was the six-point that kept poking antlers at the seven-point buck. Round and around they went, gently sparring in the early morning daylight. My first photographs were a little grainy from the dim light. But my later photographs were much clearer, due to the rising sun, and my ability to sneak closer to the action! The two bucks were so engrossed in their sparring they did not notice me coming over the top of the slope. I squatted down, knowing I would probably send them running if I came any closer. Finally, the six-point appeared to give up the dance over rights to the corn, and turned to leave.
As I looked over the photos I had managed, of these two bucks tussling over food, I thought of the many times we humans argue, spar and fight. I thought of the arguing, sparring and fighting that had occurred in my own life. Unlike Daisy and Scarlet, who seemed to walk away without anger or hurt feelings, I often carried my battles with me, not forgetting the outcome. This brought to mind the Eckhart Tolle teaching, “The Duck With a Human Mind”.
This story illustrates the uniquely human ability to cling to the past by holding on to our stories.
When two ducks get into a fight, it never lasts long – they soon separate and fly off in opposite directions. Each duck then flaps its wings vigorously several times. This releases the surplus energy that built up in him during the fight. After they flap their wings, they fly on peacefully as if nothing had ever happened.
Now, if the duck had a human mind, this scene would go very differently. The duck may fly away peacefully, for a moment, but he would not put the fight behind him. He would keep the fight alive in his mind, by thinking and story-making.
The duck’s story would probably go something like this: “I can’t believe what he just did! He came within five inches of me. He has no consideration for my private space. He thinks he owns this pond. I’ll never trust him again. I know he’s already plotting something else to annoy me with. But I’m not going to stand for it! I’m going to teach him a lesson he will never forget.”
And in this way the duck’s mind spins its tale, still thinking and talking about it, days, months, or even years later. He may never see his adversary again, but that doesn’t matter. The single incident has left its impression and now has a life of its own deep within the duck’s mind.
As far as his body is concerned, the fight is still continuing, and the energy his body generates in response to the imaginary fight is emotion, which in turn generates more thinking. This becomes the emotional thinking of the ego. The emotions feed the story and the story feeds the emotions. Endlessly. Unless the duck chooses to recognize that the fight is over, unless he drops the story, he will suffer from the endless cycle of his mind’s creation.
You can see how painful and troublesome the duck’s life would become if he had a human mind. But this is how most of us live all the time. For the average person, no situation or event is ever really over and done with. The mind and the mind-made story keep it going. Unlike the duck, we are a species that has the power to remember, which is both wonderful and problematic.
Our duck has an important lesson to teach us and his message is this: Flap your wings, which means “let go of the story,” and live your real life – here and now, in the present moment. ~Eckhart Tolle
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