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Deer are my spirit animal: Gaze


Their legs are skinny yet strong. They leap up and bound out of nowhere, all in high-heel-like hooves. They have an essence of gentleness and grace. Deer are my spirit animal.

Woodblock Print 2018
14″ x 10″

My husband loves deer as much as I do. Once, he snuck up on a deer in an effort to spank it. When I asked him why, he said he read somewhere about how it was a right of passage for young Native American men. Deer are quick like rabbits, though, and he was not successful. It might have been more likely that a deer would have snuck up on him.

This deer on North Manitou Island in above print called Gaze, wasn’t a sneaker, or a runner. This deer was a neighbor to our campsite, just checking in on us. She was friendly and wondering. It was during the rise of a strawberry full moon. I can still smell the heat of the grass and the sweet water sea.

1.75 million in Michigan

Deer need a mix of trees, bogs, and open land to survive. Up until the early 1800s, deer in Michigan inhabited its southern region. In Michigan’s northern region, elk and moose thrived in the shade of old forests.

Eventually, through development in the south and logging in the north, the deer migrated north where conditions became more favorable for them. By the late 1880s, some viewed the deer population to be inexhaustible. But of course, nothing is inexhaustible. Thankfully, management soon followed and through various laws and partnerships between hunters, legislators, and resource managers, we still have plenty of white-tailed deer.

On our farm where I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, we had a small patch of trees at the back of our property. One day, a herd of about 12 deer ran up the lane, between our barns, across our driveway, and down the road. It was a mystical experience for an eight-year-old. I still remember the sound of their fast-clicking shoes on our hard-packed driveway.

Deer as Symbol

A friend once told that me I acted like a deer in headlights. She was right, I often felt frozen with stage fright – like the way a deer can freeze if you shine a light in their eyes. They can also be skittish and elusive. I think things might have changed for me, though, when I had a dream of a doe driving a car through a corn field. I was in the passenger seat. She was taking charge.

What this dream means to me now is that I can be wild and feminine – skittish or scared or wearing high heels – and still have the instincts to take charge. I can be doe-like, and still be in the driver’s seat, going where I need to go.

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