deer tidings

white-tailed yearling by Greg Thompson

Once upon a time I was as curious as the yearling above, and in possession of a keen sense of wonder. The mysteries of nature and spirit were intertwined in my young mind. One early wordless memory I have is of lying on the cold winter ground in the woods and eyeing a little princess pine peeking through the snow. I was astonished at the connection I felt to the small precious life, and how thrilled I was to be aware of its presence!

My parents and grandparents were nature lovers, but from an early age I was locking horns with my scientifically minded father over the existence of the supernatural. It distressed me to no end that he refused to believe in anything that he could not measure in physical terms.

One afternoon when I was six years old I had a dazzling moment of transcendence when I encountered a stag, although I didn’t know enough to call it that when I later tried to tell my parents about it. As I was walking alone up the heavily wooded road from the school bus stop to my house, I strongly sensed that someone was watching me. When I turned around to look I was at first startled to see a huge stag with magnificent antlers. He was standing in the road, quietly staring at me, as if he recognized me, as if he knew exactly who I was. I was struck with awe. Completely enchanted, I was not at all frightened. In fact, I decided he was my guardian angel. A fatherly figure. Something about his presence was most reassuring. I never forgot him and have often felt his presence in my life, especially when spending time with my maternal grandfather in the years to come.

white-tailed buck at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Forty-five years later, a few years after my grandfather died, I had wonderful encounter with another deer. (Some of my readers may remember me sharing this in November 2008 on my Gaia blog.) I was visiting my father at his house in the woods, where spotting deer, coyotes, wild turkeys and fishers is not at all unusual. We were starting to watch a movie when my brother-in-law glanced out the window and noticed a doe in the yard, quite close to the house. Being so enchanted with deer I jumped at the chance to see one and went over to the window to look at her.

She was so beautiful with her large soft eyes and large ears lined in dark brown. Our eyes met and she stood there transfixed for a very long time. I could not take my eyes off of her. After a while she lay down and continued to stare at me, occasionally looking about to see what a noise might be, but then fixing her gaze back onto me. She seemed so peaceful and I wondered what, if anything, it all meant. It was as if I had lost my child’s sense of inner-knowing for a moment. Then I started to worry that my looking at her so intently might be threatening her in some way. But she was tranquil and serene. At one point a buck appeared and walked right past her and started helping himself to my father’s rhododendron. My brother-in-law was going to go shoo him away but I begged him not to. After the buck had enough to eat he slowly retraced his steps and passed by the doe again, glancing at her but unconcerned with her behavior. She ignored him completely, and kept looking at me.

white-tailed doe by Steve Hillebrand

After another long while she stood up and started nibbling at the ground, looking at me once in a while. She slowly made her way downhill around the corner of the house, so I changed my vantage point to another window on that side of the house. She was now one story below me. But she looked up to the window and saw me again and started looking at me again with the same intensity as before. Her look felt so reassuring in some way and yet I felt the thrill of butterflies in my stomach. It’s hard to put words to it. She definitely seemed to know me. It was getting darker and darker until I could barely see her, and just at the point where I felt I could see her no longer she suddenly darted away. More than an hour had passed. What an amazing gift! Even my father had to acknowledge this was an extraordinary experience.

I did finally understand the doe’s message with some help from my Reiki practitioner a few months later. I’m keeping it safe in my heart for now. I will never forget this special doe and had so often felt her guidance while caring for my father in his declining years, as well as my mother’s presence, very strongly, in my life. And it was after the doe visited the house that my father, the skeptical scientist, started reporting that he had been seeing my mother. Sometimes he would ask where she was because he was certain she had just left the room.

white-tailed doe by Greg Thompson

Fifty years after my first encounter with a deer, when I was fifty-six, my father died in his sleep in the early morning hours of September 19, 2013, under a full harvest moon. My sister called me to let me know he was gone so Tim and I left to drive up to Papa’s house to be with our family. As we reached the end of the hour-long drive, we turned onto the same road where I saw my first deer fifty years ago. In about the same spot on the road, standing quietly on the side, in the moonlight, was a lovely doe. Tim slowed the car down and she looked right into our car, into my eyes. My mother was letting me know that she had my father now. What a feeling of relief and release came over me.

Beverly and I have often noted in the months since Papa died that neither of us have felt the presence of either of our parents. But Larisa has felt her grandpa’s presence down in North Carolina. And we all see in her new baby daughter, Katie, a remarkable resemblance to him, especially in her facial expressions and the way she moves her long arms.

As I continue to mourn the loss of my father I feel like I’ve grown to a place where I can embrace being in the elder generation now, a contented crone with my fair share of hard-won wisdom to gently share with my children and grandchildren. It’s a feeling of strength, stepping into the place where my parents and my grandparents once stood.

junco ~ image credit: mike at

A couple of weeks I put out a couple of bird feeders and have enjoyed watching the birds who come to eat. My parents and grandparents were avid bird-watchers but I thought identifying birds was a tedious endeavor when I was a child. However, these past few days I’ve been amazed to discover that some of what they taught me got stored in my memory files. It seems like every time a new bird shows up a name pops into my head, so I look it up and find it to be correct! I’ve always loved and could identify chickadees, but when an unfamiliar bird showed up the other day and “junco” popped out of my mouth, well, I’ve fallen in love with another little one.

I almost posted the first parts of my deer story several times since I started this blog, but something kept holding me back. After I saw the doe the night my father died it became clear that the tale had not been finished. Yet something still kept making it seem like it wasn’t the time to share it. After spending three weeks with my darling new granddaughter, though, it feels like the whole picture has now been revealed.

14 thoughts on “deer tidings”

  1. Barbara — As a Reiki Master Teacher, I have the sneaking suspicion that I share the same thoughts as your Reiki practitioner regarding the doe’s message to you. What wonderfully remarkable encounters you’ve been blessed with over your lifetime.

    1. It was amazing to me, Laurie. It was my first Reiki session and my practitioner knew nothing about my deer experiences, yet, after the session was over she told me she had received a message from deer and shared it with me. So I kept going to see her to soak up all of that wonderful energy. Then I took her class and received an attunement and was able to treat myself. I can imagine that as a Reiki Master Teacher you must have had many wonderful experiences with your clients and students!

    1. Thank you, Sybil. It took me a long time to get it out – it was as if sharing it might diminish some of the wonder and mystery in the light of day, but that didn’t happen, thankfully…

  2. Goodness, this is such a magical and meaningful post, Barbara! I love both the buck and the doe stories! I remember being enchanted by deer at my grandmother’s summer home. She had a salt lick some way from the house that they visited daily, it seemed. This is one of the most lovely pieces of writing I’ve read in a while.

    I’m trying to get my butt back in the saddle. I did manage to post something a month ago, but have been busy teaching workshops, looking at self-hosting my blog and writing my memoir (yes, I’ve been doing that), but I will make an effort to get something new out this week, including photos of our new home. Sorry to have been absent of late. Glad to be back just in time for the deer!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Kathy! It’s taken me a while to get back to responding to comments – a few days after I posted this I had surgery on my toe, followed by an antibiotic-resistant infection, and then the holidays…

      So I do know all about how hard it can be to get your “butt back in the saddle” at times! You sound wonderfully busy and happy. I will have to check out your blog again and see what you’ve been up to. I miss you!

  3. “The whole picture has now been revealed”……I love that you have held your story close to your heart for so long, yet now know what it all means, and can share some of it here. What an honour it must have been, to hold the sight of the doe for so long, I think she knew you, and trusted you… I feel honoured to read your story. Thank you, Barbara. <3

    1. Thank you so much, Joanne. With all three of the deer I had that feeling that they knew me, that I was not alone in the universe. It was as if I was in the place of the little princess pine and the deer were peeking at me now, feeling the same connection I had felt to that little plant poking through the snow. I think of “my” deer often, especially when I’m sick and/or feeling overwhelmed and isolated in my thoughts….

  4. Barbara, this is such a beautifully written post. I can sit here and feel the wonderment that you felt with each deer encounter … then the intensity of the doe’s gaze penetrating your very soul. You are lucky that your parents fostered a respect for nature at an early age – it left you with a lifelong love of animals. My mom’s mobility issues did not give her stable footing for hiking in the woods, but I did spend time with my father and there was a meadow and creek at the end of our block (later turned into a mall after we moved to the States) and much of my childhood was spent with friends running in the meadow, through the trees, exploring at the Creek. This is why Council Point Park is so special to me – it reminds me of those simple childhood wonders. I am glad you shared this tale of your first deer sighting of the beautiful stag and then the doe encounters ever since. My parents bought me books related to nature, plus we watched TV programs about nature from an early age. The “National Geographic” TV specials and their monthly publication were fixtures at our home for decades.

    1. Thank you, Linda. It still amazes me that the doe came up to the house and looked into the window at me for so long.
      I remember as I was getting to know you how similar our childhoods were, especially when it came to watching National Geographic and other nature programs with our parents on TV. 🙂 I’m glad you have your outdoor memories with your father to cherish and Council Point Park to bring you so much happiness now.

      1. This is true – there were also the Disney animal shows, Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins and Jacques Cousteau too. We have that early fostering of an appreciation of nature in common. Our parents were smart to do this and when you take Kat to the nature sites for her to explore, you are doing the same thing as your parents did.

        1. I think Kat was about four years old when the two of us watched “A Squirrel’s Guide to Success” streaming on PBS, part of the “Nature” series. I wondered if a documentary would hold her interest and was pleasantly surprised when she sat through the whole hour with me, mesmerized.

          1. That sounds like a cute story in the PBS Nature Series. I see two different types of kids as I go about my daily life. When I go to big parks on the weekend, I see whole families hiking or biking together, even with very young kids … I like to see that. At the grocery store, I see young kids whining what toy or candy they want and they can’t sit still in the cart seat or walk next to their parent while doing the shopping. I think when parents introduce their kids to nature early, they want to learn more on their own. Remember Kat running and taking photos with her tablet or a phone at the nature site?

          2. I do remember that day well. My daughter and son-in-law have done a fantastic job nurturing a curious and kind little girl. 😊

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