Deer Medicine: Learning Trust From the Natural World

Living closely with animals taught one woman lessons of unconditional love — and how to live a more resilient and authentic life.

| January 17, 2013

There are lessons to be learned from the natural world and its inhabitants. Writer Stephanie Marohn, living on a farm sanctuary, came to learn that from the animals she lived with, including deer. In the following excerpt from What the Animals Taught Me (Red Wheel, 2012), her book about the experience, she writes of her realization that “trust in a relationship provides space for us to be our fullest selves. In trust, we can step out of the headlights, out of our frozen fear, out of our fear of being revealed, and show the full range of our being. Without trust, it is difficult to be who we truly are.”  

You can buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: What the Animals Taught Me.

As spring turned into summer, the doe who had been playing tag with Gabriel in the pasture moved closer in. I knew it was the same one because her right ear was tattered.

Sometimes in the company of other deer, she took to napping under the cedar trees next to the house, where Wonder had been born. It was cool there and I put a bucket of water out for her and the turkeys, who also often hung out under the cedars, as well as on the cool cement of the patio and on the deck railing where there was a birdbath. Not wanting to interfere with the natural world, I did not feed the deer or the turkeys, but they came anyway. They seemed to have joined the sanctuary.

One morning, I saw the doe in the memorial garden, a grove of California lilacs and a redwood that had begun as a tribute to a deceased friend and become the burial site for beloved animals. A stream of light from the newly risen sun bathed her in gold and I heard her name as clearly as if someone had spoken it: Angel.

As the foraging grew scant in the dried fields of summer, I took to leaving apples out for Angel. She didn’t seem to be leaving the property as she used to. (Deer could easily jump the fence; I had seen them do it.) I placed the apples under the apple tree when she was not around because I didn’t want her to associate humans with food and possibly expose herself to danger somewhere else.

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