Messages of the Wild, to Heal My Heart

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.

With Daisy no longer in "protective mother mode", Spirit was welcomed back into the herd in late September.
With Daisy no longer in “protective mother mode”, Spirit was welcomed back into the herd in late September.

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.

Spirit looks on while Willow decides on what grasses and weeds to nibble.
Spirit looks on while Willow decides what grasses and weeds to nibble.
This was the first "nice" meeting where Daisy did not hoof Spirit off!
This was the first “nice” meeting where Daisy did not hoof Spirit off!
Daisy meets her new granddeer!
Daisy meets her new granddaughter!
Willow is not sure what to think of me, but she does not run off. She is a curious girl.
Willow is not sure what to think of me, but she does not run off. She is a curious girl (or guy).
By October, it was common to see Willow with Daisy. Sometimes Daisy babysat while Spirit rested.
By October, it was common to see Willow with Daisy. Sometimes Daisy babysat while Spirit rested.

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.

This shows the injury to the left front leg.
This photo shows the injury to Willow’s left front leg.
Not photographed easily, this is the only shot that shows the deep wound to Williow's chest.
Not easily photographed, this is the only shot that shows the deep wound extending to Willow’s chest.
Spirit was often seen licking Willow's wound, keeping the area clean.
Spirit was often seen licking Willow’s wound, keeping the area clean.

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.

Daisy and her little herd stop to have a morning munch of corn and deer chow before heading out to eat greens.
Daisy and her little herd stop to have a morning munch of corn and deer chow before heading out to eat greens.
Willow's leg has healed and her spots are beginning to fade.
Willow’s leg has healed and her spots are beginning to fade.
Daisy, Heidi and Willow get a big sip of water on a ninety degree afternoon.
Daisy, Heidi and Willow get a big sip of water on a ninety degree afternoon.
Willow is very photogenic. She is curious about my camera!
Willow is very photogenic and is curious about my camera!
Dancer, Heidi and Willow grazing atop the knoll overlooking the canyon.
Dancer, Heidi and Willow grazing atop the knoll overlooking the canyon.
Dancer and Willow on high alert! Notice Willow "stomping" and both deer have ears at attention. The perpetrator was a very smelly skunk rooting around nearby.
Dancer and Willow on high alert! Notice Willow “stomping” and both deer have ears at attention. The perpetrator was a very smelly skunk rooting around nearby.

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…

Willow leading the way to the pecan orchard.
Willow, leading the way to the pecan orchard…

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 


63 thoughts on “Messages of the Wild, to Heal My Heart

  1. Oh darling girl. So sad. And so true. Your deer are wild and I am so grateful that you allow them this so they can live and die as they must. But free. It is the hardest thing to allow an animal her freedom and then have to stand back and watch through your lifes binoculars as nature takes its miserable course. You are a very strong woman. Part wild yourself- you know these things, but the tamed part of your heart keeps trying to organise stuff and make sense of it. It is hard to be a bird up above, just watching – when really you want to dive in and fix it all. But your wild side says no. Wait. So wait. Winter is coming.. All my love darling.. c

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    1. Thank you, Celi. What a beautiful comment you have written! You know me well – you say it clearly. This post was about more than just Spirit and Willow… though Willow’s disappearance seemed to be the last straw in my frustration and it really spoke to me about my own situation with people in my life. I have needed to let go of many things… relationships I have exhausted myself over. Too many years have passed by with me hanging on to hope and expectation over issues and situations that will not change. I love how you expressed our need to “organize and make sense of it… but the wild side says no”. Ah, that says it all my friend. And yes, winter is coming – I love you too.

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      1. winter coming often creates the need to sort through and throw out what will take too much energy to maintain through the cold months.. about time to set those frustrating relationships as free as the deer, give them their power back. So they can live as they will. Just imagine how much wilder you will be with all that energy released! c

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  2. Some say the only way to have any sort of calm existence is to find those like yourself and be with them. Make your own world. Even before reading Celi’s comment, that’s what I thought you have done. It is very difficult to just “be”….people keep trying to form fit “how it should be” into just “be”.
    I love the picture of Dance and WIllow’s “ears”. (and the others, too) We are all posed making our way. With luck, we all find those who will be willing to stand and offer comfort when needed.
    (Somehow, that even happens in blogs. A phenomenon unexpected)

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    1. Thank you for your always insightful comments! You nailed it! The one place I seem to find comfort and encouragement is here in the blog world. This is where I find a circle of friends who are mostly like-minded and at the very least, respectful of each other. Funny that you notice the ears of the deer. So much can be learned about watching the movement of the ears. The tail too! When I photograph the deer, my favorite shots are in the evening with the sun backlighting – the ears appear to have a pink hue. Sometimes it is possible to see the network of veins as the light illuminates from behind.

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    1. Thank you, Nathan. I have even managed to make friends with a doe and fawn that initially snorted at me and generally ran off. Now they keep a watchful eye at a distance. Progress is slow sometimes but trust can be built with a little patience. Of course Daisy and her twins and Spirit don’t mind me at all.

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  3. I’m sorry to hear this Sundoggie girl but possibly your concerns are for naught; after all, this wild animal is 3000 miles from home to see my pain doctor in California and I’m still alive. My wife and I are very excited because we both have won a scholarship for advocacy training for those of us with chronic pain. We are leaving from here next week for Salt Lake City for an intensive three day course on dealing with the media, government officials, etc. on issues regarding chronic, intractable pain. After the training we will be full fledged members of “The Leaders Against Pain Network.” Once again, I’m sorry but Cecilia has stated things well about moving on with your life. I’ve had to learn many of those lessons myself as some of my friends have disowned me simply because I use high powered opioid meds and that does not agree with their world view. Without those meds I would be in agony 24/7 so the hell with ’em. I’m pulling for you and your future happiness and hoping that your pain and frustration eases, too!!!!

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    1. Thank you Louis. I wish you and your wife the best in Salt Lake City! What an exciting and important endeavor for both of you. You can bet I have a much improved outlook on life right now. Sometimes it takes me a while to realize my pitfalls.

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  4. Oh no, not another one gone. Poor Willow. Poor Spirit. I don’t know how you deal with the heartbreak of letting nature take its course when you’re so immersed in the lives of these deer, Lori. Celi is right, you are very strong. And wise enough to glean the lessons from nature to help you in your own life. Ah, those hopes and expectations get us every time, don’t they? Be well, my friend. xoxo

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    1. Thanks, Kim. You know… we’ve talked about this so many times, how these expectations keep bringing disappointment and misery. So many things speak to me lately. And it is good. Much love to you, my sweet friend.

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  5. Oh, Life can be so hard to understand at times. Living in the ‘now’ is certainly helpful, if not always easy. Best wishes and good energies being sent to you. X

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  6. Few words to give you, Lori. The beauty and sadness and profundity of this post, among your many others, is almost overwhelming. I hope all turns out well for your deer family, and hope all is well with your human family.

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    1. Ah, Sid. It is all part of growth. We have to be willing to face many difficulties in life, in order to have understanding. I’m getting there… I’m just a late bloomer I guess!

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  7. I really appreciated this story! I also….can relate to your bit of “writers block” or at least the pause to post. Thank you for taking the time to write and share this moving story!

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment. I struggle with writers block generally when I have chaos in my life. Though this was a difficult story to write, it was of importance to share. I feel much better having gotten back to my writing. It’s therapeutic for me!

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      1. I agree that writing is such good medicine! I am also learning that it is okay to write and not share….which I also choose to do when times of chaos are upon me. Your writing is very appreciated by me! So, thank you again for sharing!
        There are times when I write and then throw it in the fire….that’s something that drives my friends who are writers crazy, but for me sometimes….it works!

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        1. I think whatever works for us to relieve stress and chaos in life, is just fine. Writing is a wonderful expression. Nature photography and travel are also ways of finding peace and tranquility for me. I am better at napping and getting rest as I get older. That seems to help a lot! 🙂 Thanks for such an upbeat and supportive comment!

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  8. These are such hard posts to read–both yours and Celia’s–when Nature runs her course. Brutal and definitive. But they also pull my own life into perspective. My problems and challenges are rarely Life or Death matters. It’s good for me to be reminded of that. Thank you, my friend.

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    1. Sandy, I thought of you so much while writing this post, knowing how difficult the brutality of nature affects you. It was a difficult post to write, yet there was much more depth to it for me than losing Willow. I also thought about the many times you have reminded me that everything I have struggled with is “on me” and not about others. Your pearls of wisdom have helped me along the way at every crossroads. Thank YOU, my beautiful friend.

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  9. Beautifully written. Perhaps Willow had already fulfilled her purpose here. We are not given to know how each life will play out. Sometimes we only touch briefly and go our separate ways. It is difficult being an observer and not go ahead and “fix” things. It isn’t that you don’t care, you care so much that you can allow things to take their natural course, even if you don’t like it.
    Celi is right, winter is coming. Rest yourself in the peace and quiet.
    All the best.

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    1. Thank you for such kind and understanding words. I think this will be the first winter of my life that perhaps with this new perspective, I will revel in a little housekeeping of the soul, and rest. It will be a good time to walk with the deer people and simply enjoy the moment. 🙂 Much love to you, my friend.

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  10. Ahh, gee, life is a b—-! I feel so bad for that dear little deer and that you had to be a part of something that is so heartbreaking. I know the feeling from years ago when I lost a cat or dog because of the careless actions of a human being. I had to learn how to be super vigilant and spend money in order to keep my pets safer. In your situation there was nothing to be done.

    Writing this post had to have been extremely difficult and you wrote with finesse. Your writings always grab my heart and I can feel your pain. Not exactly but I don;t have the right words. No one can feel anther’s broken heart. If you learned a lesson from the deer then you are wise and your heart and mind are in the right place. Blessings dear lady.

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    1. Yvonne, it WAS a difficult post to write, mostly because I had not written in so long and shared the many beautiful photos I had collected of Willow. I found myself having to share the reality of loss, when I had not shared the two months of intimacy I documented with this sweet baby. And mostly, my heart ached for Spirit. But I also knew that this audience of friends, who understand the ways of nature and life, would be compassionate, and supportive, regardless of what I wrote or how it was expressed. Thank you so much for your kind words, Yvonne.

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  11. What an awesome post! Your first paragraph has described me perfectly. Life and unfulfilled expectations were in the way. Thanks for sharing. Definitely a “me, too” post for me. Thanks! 🙂
    Nanny

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    1. Hi Shelli – thanks for commenting. It’s one thing to be cognizant when we catch ourselves “expecting” and yet another thing to change that mindset. I’m trying though and focusing more on “now”. There really is a lot of wonderful and good in what is happening at this very moment! 🙂

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  12. I have been away at my daughters. I am so sorry about Willow Lori. Nature is a cruel mistress sometimes but so full of lessons that we need to be aware of, even when they hurt like a bugger. We think that because we are human we are somehow immune from nature and her advances but all it takes is the change of the seasons and an age old tug of emotional pain to remind us that we are all part of a great big cycle that keeps on cycling no matter how much we try to distance ourselves from it. It is up to us to learn how to let go. I am still learning (and I am not very good at it). I think it is more about fear and the need for control than it is for letting go. We cling to what we know and are afraid of releasing ourselves into the unknown. Your ability to observe and document will hold you up in that sea of change. Hugs to you and again, so sorry about little Willow 😦

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    1. Hello Fran! I hope you had a wonderful time with your girls, and I know I can look forward to hearing all about your little excursion soon! What a lovely comment you’ve written. I like what you said about the “sea of change”. I know that being cognizant of my old tendencies is a big part of the letting go and letting be. I have been spending a lot of time walking alone in the woods and beyond with the camera, making that opportunity to focus on the “moment” that is, and not worry about what was or could have been. It is a comforting thing to walk into the world of wild things – even plants, and take in the “being” qualities of nature.

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      1. I think we can be ourselves most of all, when we are out in nature because we get to think. We don’t have to engage anything, just be part of it, which after all, is our natural state. I am never happier than when I am home in the peace and quiet now and I understand why my dad used to want to get out of the city and back here as soon as he could. We are very lucky people to have enough space to wander and think aren’t we 🙂

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  13. Hi Lori, What an awful thing to happen at a time when you were feeling emotionally vulnerable. It was indeed amazing to witness Daisy and her fawns comforting Spirit. I hope you have received the human equivalent to the nurturing licking and grooming the deer offered.

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    1. Aw, thank you Margaret. I have found the “human equivalent” here in the blogging community. This is the most compassionate and inspirational bunch of people I’ve ever met!

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  14. This, again, is another heartwarming post. Sometimes it’s sad the way life takes its twists and turns but we have to understand there is no straight path to anywhere anyway. Whatever going through your mind will heal with, as you say, nature taking its own course. Couldn’t agree with you more on how picking up a camera and just walking can heal any ‘wound’. I do that all the time and, somehow, the best pictures happen when the mind is ‘elsewhere’. Keep going. The daily dose of “LSD” makes a difference in so many ways 😉

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  15. I’m so sorry, my sweet friend. I always read your wonderful posts fearing that you may have sad news. This is only because of the reality of nature, and the ever present possibility of loss.
    I too have had to make some recent difficult choices about relationships that always have been a bit hurtful for me. I’m way too old for that kind of drama and we all deserve peace and quiet. I remain very grateful to know you, Lori.

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    1. Thank you Mike. You understand how tremendous a teacher nature is for all of us. We venture into the woods (or desert or mountains) knowing there will be difficulty… yet the rewards of taking the path less traveled are great. I am thankful we have connected on this great journey, my friend.

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  16. Again you have brought tears of joy and understanding to my eyes. You have touched a nerve for me this morning. I have been through some life lessons recently and have spent so much time trying to figure how how can such “injustice” exist in a world I believe to be just? It is what it is – the good and the not so good. I must rely on my inner voice and my “truth” and accept all that comes, knowing it is all, part of life. (Thanks for your beautiful way of saying this!)

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    1. Ah, Lioness – so many of us struggle with the same thoughts and feelings. Many times we ponder the questions we have about life, looking for some kind of logic and order. But life doesn’t work that way. I find myself so exhausted at times just trying to understand, that finally I just give up the need to know why things happen as they do. With that comes peace and letting go.

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  17. I was so glad to see your post! I’ve thought of you several times the past few weeks and meant to check in and see how you were doing. I’m sorry that I did not follow through.
    Live simply and find acceptance … such wonderful guiding principles.
    As always, lovely photos of your deer family.

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    1. Thank you Laurie. I generally find if I ignore those gentle urgings to do something, I later regret that I didn’t. For over a month I meant to post about Willow and show some of the lovely photos of her. Then she disappeared and I wished so much I had posted her story and her photos. Now I would have to find a way to update on the time since she was born, and then find a way to let her go. I was a bit upset with myself for getting so caught up in my personal struggles that I had not done the thing that gives me so much happines… writing and photography.

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    1. Thank you, Lynda. Spirit seems to have adjusted and is enjoying being Daisy’s yearling again. I often see her and Daisy mutual grooming as they did so often when Spirit was just a fawn herself. It is a strange journey I am on these days… a change of path – the road less traveled. If Spirit can manage, then I’m sure I can too! 🙂

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  18. I’m a little late, but so sorry for your loss of Willow. There is little left to say after all the other comments so just know that I am glad you and your little deer herd are all healing.

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    1. Oh thank you… we are thankful for our time with Willow. Spirit seems content again, and has been helping Daisy with the twins – grooming and such. I’m glad she’s moved on. She’ll be a much wiser mama next time around, just as Daisy was when she lost Rowdy.

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