As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live. Goethe
Lit up by the morning light, she stood there staring at me yesterday, a delicate long-necked silhouette ahead on the trail. Her ears perked up, her head twisted toward me as I approached, but she didn’t move. I, too, stopped, and the two of us looked at each other for what seemed like a very long time, long enough for me to smell the balsam and notice the breeze and a crow chattering in a nearby tree. Three mornings in a row, I’d seen her, or one of her tribe, on this, my favorite trail. And she wasn’t the only deer I’d met up with in the past few days. Sunday, as I scampered down through our backyard to the compost pile, I heard a snort, a gasp of startled breath as two deer looked up, then leapt away into the marsh. And later that day, on the road to Big Bay, a baby, a fawn still-spotted and skinny-legged, had run across the road in front of us as we stopped the car to admire it.
I decided there might be a message for me in all these deer encounters, so after I returned home from my hike, I hauled out my deck of Steven Farmer’s Power Animal Oracle Cards and looked up “deer”. “Trust Your Instincts,” the card said. Then, I read further in the accompanying guidebook. “Close your eyes, breathe deeply and easily, clear your mind, and you’ll know what to do to find your way through.”
One of my friends is in the midst of making a decision about her career and has asked us, a group of her friends, for any wisdom we can muster as she gets clear. I was surprised by me response to her – not as much by my words, but by the confidence in which I spoke. “You already know what you want,” I said. “Deep inside of you. You’re just clearing away the mind-clutter, the muddle, so you can hear what it is you want to do.” I believe that. I believe that deep inside of us we know. We know what feels good. We know what doesn’t feel good. We know what brings us most alive. We know danger. And we know how to step out of its path.
We know the next step. And the next.
I love the gift of the deer as guide this week. Deer so beautifully model for us a deep abiding trust in our own instincts. A deer doesn’t put her power in the hands of outside forces, in a government or a work system or a relationship that is bound sooner or later to disappoint. Instead, she goes within, connects deeply with her senses, with the sight of a girl on the trail and the smell of balsam and the touch of the wind. She’s grounded and from this grounded plugged-in place, she can discern. Is this girl in the funny headband and flip-flops a danger? Her ears perk up. Her eyes become keen. And, it is her sixth sense that kicks in. Probably this girl – this woman – is okay, a fellow lover of late August and the morning light and this particular path.
So there it is, deer-wisdom for a friend weighing a career move, for four classes of yoga at Joy Center this week, deer-wisdom for all of us as the fullness of summer begins its tip into colder nights and shorter days and we sense a new beginning on the horizon – deer-wisdom, a gentle reminder that if we settle in, feel the ground beneath our feet and remember to breathe, we’ll know what it is we want; we’ll know what to do next.