When I was 35, my husband, daughter, and I moved to a semi-rural island in Washington State. Suddenly the deer were everywhere! I followed deer tracks, wandered kir trails, and became still and watchful whenever I encountered kin. I began to pursue deep nature immersion practices, and this led me to observe the deer as closely as I could, and to mimic kin -- practicing Deer Ears to gather sound from every direction, moving with the varying motions and gaits of a deer, and -- as one growing into a love of the plants and herbalism -- finding my own way to browse in the wild.
Deep nature connection and soul work inevitably leads to a tangle of shadows, beauty, grief, and breathtaking heart in one's inner forest. How does that wildwood tangle become a medicine bundle?One evening I arrived in frustration at my greenwood sit spot. So much had shifted in my mythic terrain that I felt that, in another place and time, I might have received a new name, a sound essence that would witness and ground my fledgling understandings, and, like a small bird, coax me from a new place of knowing to reenter a soul service to the children, to my people -- human and more-than-human kin, the Sacred, and Earth.
But that village with elders and name-givers did not exist for me then -- not in a way that I perceived, anyway.
"If I lived in a different place and time," I told my sit spot companions, Douglas-fir, Red Cedar, and Red Alder, who I called the Three Sisters, "I'd have a new name. A name like ...." I peered into the twilight, trying to imagine what kind of name I'd receive, what kind would embody the sense of who I was and what I more fully longed to be. In that moment, the encompassing Forest dropped a name like a pebble into the pond of my heart. I found myself finishing my own sentence with the words: "... a name like Singing Deer."
The shadows vanished. My heart overflowed like Spring waters, I gazed in wonder at the greens-and-black, the bright night of Forest welcoming me as kin. "Thank you, thank you ..."
Many reasons existed then as to why that name spoke truth to me. I continue to discover more.
In my nature connection work with children and adults, I teach Deer Form, in which we listen and move through the landscape as if we are deer, the better to experience the smells, sights, feeling, slow grace, and comfort of being at home with Earth. Becoming the Deer is to grow in relationship with the plants. For the Deer who pass kir time along the landscape, or resting within, the green world and Earth are a relaxed extension of who and what kin are.
To be like the Deer -- to practice Deer Medicine -- is to engage in the deepest listening. The deer are not always wary. Deer play or groom one another. In the mating season, the stags engage in single-minded pursuit. This past fall, a group of women and myself shape-shifted into Deer, and followed actual Deer (!) off the human trail and into a wooded hillside. Following the Deer has led me to understand the nuances of sacred plant medicine that I now consider to be Deer medicine. Kin have led me to listen for music when I am within a magical moment in nature (and magic is in nature, always). I call the melodies that come to me during these times "Deer Songs".
I have given Reiki and song to a fawn who lay dying. I have heard fawns bleat, and stags snort. I am trying to use ki/kin pronouns for beings of the living earth, as proposed by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a nature writer, botanist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi. It is for the illuminated world that the Deer have shared with me that I do so.
The Deer feel safe around our home, and my family often finds we can look in the four directions and spot deer in the far field, deer in the chicken yard, deer ruminating near the plum trees, deer eating the fallen horse chestnuts.
This past spring I walked out our front door to find this very young fawn sleeping by our walkway.