Deer Antlers

Our dog’s nose led us to the buck, on a grassy slope surrounded by eucalyptus trees. Two curved roads intersected nearby. Scavengers had been at work on his tawny body. He had been a handsome buck. His antlers rose in graceful arcs, forked into eight prongs. Surprisingly large ears identified him as a mule deer, one of the many who forage in these canyons.

On a later visit, I brought tobacco to sprinkle over him. I gave thanks for his life, and prayed his soul had rejoined the Oneness. Smoke from my bundle of burning sage carried the prayers, waved upward by turkey flight feathers. Honor the being.

I grasp his antlers. They are substantial, heavy, rubbed smooth near their base. I feel life in them, and death. I ask to speak with the buck. Was he was killed by a car?

His spirit answers: “Yes, I was focused on the doe, my drive to reproduce. That is the strongest drive, even stronger than survival. I have bred many seasons, then shed my antlers. These would have come off after the season of mating.”

“I’m sorry your life was cut short.”

“Yes, but it was not in vain, for I have left my seed to carry on the line and the species. I would rather have given my life than had it taken this way. The creatures of the cycle have feasted, and will continue to, although where I fell is not rich in such life. The trees there poison the soil, so only their kind grows well, and not as many who scavenge come to that place.”

“What is your purpose in the world?”

“My purpose in the world is to reproduce my kind. We have a long relationship with those who honor us, and that must continue. If not I, then others. We all contribute to the greater flow, each in our way.

“I am the symbol for strength, and grace in nature. I have been used to symbolize kings and the Christ spirit. I wear the crown upon my head, and move with grace and dignity. My myth is of gentleness, being alert, ready to spring away. That is true. I also am a warrior, clashing to protect what is mine. We are complex, as you feel you are. It is in waves and currents, winding together.”

“Do you have a message for us?”

“Cars are a danger, to us and to humankind. Too many humans are not aware of cars’ power, and of their own limited ability to control it. Things are changing – all things – the kind of life that one can live now, the kind of life that can be lived now. Do not lose focus, but be mindful of what is around you. Be wary of predators, whether animal kind, human, or mechanical. They come sideways, when least expected. Sometimes they come to assist when it is your time, but sometimes, as with me, my time had not come. Accidents happen. All feel it.

“The lesson is as I have said. There is no one thing, but a complexity of being with a driving purpose – reproduce – carry on the species, transmit the knowledge to new generations, that they may live and grow, and take their part in the dance of the winds. That is all.”

I thanked the buck, and returned home to ponder his message. How many of us move through life in such a focused, mindful way? When a being dies, whether human or another species, ripples are felt through the web that connects us all. We have lapses, and accidents happen. The buck reminds us of purpose, responsibility, and legacy in the great flow of the world. He cautions us not to wait, but to share the knowledge and wisdom we have gained with those who come after us.

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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