When I was 19, a deer walked up to me as I sat on a bench outside the Muir Woods gift shop.
A couple of years later, I smelled a rose in the night, to find a deer eating a rose from the same bush.
Once at a Bear Dance, where everyone was supposed to shapeshift into bears, I aimed for bear, and ended up a deer.
On my college campus, I came across something large that I had startled, turned out it was a deer. There were deer on that campus, and each evening I would watch them as I walked to the car. Merritt College in Oakland is a beautiful campus with a view of the bay, and the moon and stars.
A friend was driving and we nearly hit a deer.
Then one year, on the Fifth of July, around 2 AM, stone sober, I hit a deer that appeared on the freeway on ramp. I was on a country road in Sunol, going slowly with the brights on, when I saw the freeway sign, killed the brights and sped up.
Mistake. She was there, very white she glowed in the moonlight. I hit her, pulled over, and when I ran to find her, she was gone. I assume she died of her injuries. I assume I ended her life early. I also assume that Deer had been trying to get my attention all the other times she came to me.
So what was I, daft? Thick? Well, partly, but not especially. The issue is that Deer never came to me in meditations, or dreams, always in real world experiences. Even here in the urban city, a deer sighting isn’t terribly unusual. Nothing about these (granted unusual) experiences, said to me, “Work with the Deer Spirit”. Nothing. Later, when I hit the deer, I was obliged to work with the individual spirit of that deer. I said prayers, made offerings, checked in with oracles, and read on deer mythology.
The issue was that Deer medicine (for lack of a better word) is subtle, loving and gentle. Its not persuasive. Crows, jays, raccoons, other animals you run across in urban areas that may want your attention, are far more obnoxious, pushy and demanding than the soft and gentle deer.
That deer I hit paid the price for my lack of awareness. I don’t recall after any of the experiences with the deer (except the last one) stopping to ask, “Is Deer trying to tell me something?” which I do now. I don’t want anything else to perish because I wasn’t paying attention.
I recently had the pleasure of hearing a South American drum that represented the heartbeat of the deer. It was a ball of some type set in a bowl of water, and there were 4 for different sounds. This year, I received a drum of my own, from my friends Mike and Lorrie, made by Lupa, made of deer skin. As a vegetarian who eschews leather and fur, it was hard for me to accept. In the end, my discomfort was nothing compared to the deer dying quietly in the forest after I hit her.
Drumming has changed my practice in subtle ways. It has helped me experience the life force that remains after the life has passed. It has connected me to the Deer more intimately, more organically. It has helped me see that creating something with the body of an animal is reverent and honorable, and that the creature continues to exist, albeit differently.
I am grateful for the Deer, Her lessons, and Her patience. I am grateful for my friends who gifted me with more than a mere instrument, but also a lesson of life and eternity.