Deer Medicine from the Beginning + Exciting News

Hello, dear Reader,

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. The deer have been strong in my life — with sweet and sad encounters with these creatures. One such encounter involved a fawn who had been hit by a car, and its cries of pain and fright as it was carried out of a ditch by two kind women. When nothing was left to be done, I sang to it, the softest of wordless sounds for a time, and then opening to words with such Threshold Choir songs as “Let Me Lie Down,” “May Peace be With You,” and “River, Going Home” — a beautiful song by Barb Adams, co-director with me of the Vashon Threshold Choir — and other chants.  All these songs as the fawn passed away. I never guessed that my second attendance with song at death would be for a spotted fawn who had barely known life.

These days, I’ve been in deep discovery with plants, and they have had much to teach me, much to share — especially as I apply Body-Mind Centering® practices to my explorations.  Invariably the deer are present as well, moving through the meadow, or lying in the grasses. I had something of an epiphany today with Hawthorn in a place where the deer had bedded only hours before, and I realized that it is time to resume my Deer Medicine Healing practice — and, dear Reader — to share that practice with you.

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Deer Song - photo art by Jane Valencia (c) 2014

Deer Song – photo art by Jane Valencia (c) 2014

So let’s start at the beginning.

Deer Medicine, plain and simple, is about deep listening. It’s about being as present as you possibly can in a moment, and using all the senses you can (even senses you can’t really identify with your thinking mind) to discern what is needed in that moment. If you are with someone in pain (of mind, of body) or even someone who is dying, you are listening and opening, being with them with the whole of your heart, the whole of yourself. Often you are doing what seems like “nothing” — as you hold them with your heart, hold them in a sheltering and witnessing space, hold them with an attunement to the Sacred that is the true nature of the world around and within each one of us, and which threads us altogether.

You are listening, listening. Waiting for something to emerge that feels undeniably like the right small gesture to offer. For me, sometimes it’s a gentle song in the softest of voices, or a melody that emerges that is the breath of the moment, the medicine that softens a resistance, that soothes like a fresh rain. Other times, I invoke Reiki, or speak silently with the plants, and that healing grace infuses the space and offers its own harmonizing and strengthening qualities, working in a mysterious but very real way. I can’t always tell at the time what good has resulted, but something is surely present, and I have come to trust its own timing, its own movement.

You have your own medicine ways. It may not be with song, or with plants, or with energy — but if you are reading this post, I’m certain you have your own creative healing magic. Tell me, dear Reader — when do you find yourself listening, listening, deeply with every cell in your body? What do you find yourself doing or offering or holding in response? If you wish, please share your reflections in the comment box below (you’ll need to scroll down to find it).

Before I go, I have some exciting news to share with you.

Women’s Nature Ways Year-Long Transformational Journey

My dear friend and colleague Stacey Hinden and I have created a brand new offering for women! It’s called Women’s Nature Ways, and it weaves our 50+ years combined experience exploring the realm of deep inner and outer ecological wisdom.

We’re inviting an intimate group of 10 women to retreat with us four weekends a year here on our beautiful Vashon Island home to explore somatic, energetic, and wildcrafting practices to awaken our connection with bodymind intelligence and plant spirit. We’ll slow down and explore both in the studio and out on the land – moving, communing, wild-harvesting, creating, cooking, visioning, and tapping the wellspring of our most grounded, loving, powerfully-attuned selves.

I’d be so grateful if you could help spread the word about Women’s Nature Ways, and even more delighted if you chose to journey with us this year. Registration is open; we begin this November. For more information, please visit our website  WomensNatureWays.com

Gracias, dear One!

WNW-Flyer-8-6-15

The Deer Lead The Way

At sundown I wander to Hawthorn, who I might say is my first tree teacher. Wind and rain have scattered some of her “clothes” upon the ground–lichen of all sorts. I must gather Usnea tomorrow and make some medicine!

I wander the edge of the field, following animal trails that branch off with unexpected frequency into small tunnels in the shrubs. One tunnel slashes through a hedge, and I find a pile of deer droppings (ah, the sign of the Deer 🙂 ).

So, the deer can pass through this hedge! That means I can easily do so too — or: more easily than I can flounder and crawl through a raccoon trail. I push back some vigorous Holly, and enter the edge.

In a few yards it opens to a neighbor’s yard, but I stay within the hedge. This space is its own world! I discover a pair of trees that my eyes had passed over in the “outer world” — twin Cypresses, shrouded in Holly.

This may be a lovely space to get to know Holly. I am currently journeying with the trees and plants of the Celtic Tree Ogham. I will write more regarding that journey in future posts.

Do you have a secret hideaway in a hedge or in the shrubs? Look around your yard, or in your neighborhood. Better yet, settle into a place of quiet, open heart. Ask the plants, the green spirit, or even the deer if they would be willing to help you find it. I’m certain there is a secret space amidst the plant world waiting just for you. Likely, even more than one!

When you find it, or if you have one already, please tell us about it here!

Deer and Green Man – photo by Jane Valencia.    Jewelry by ????

Bringing Healing Nature Home

Recently I viewed a screening of Play Again, a documentary exploring the consequences of a childhood removed from nature. For me it was a sobering film as I recognized aspects of what is presented (kids and teens using media 5-15 hours daily or more), in the lives of some youth around me.

Reflecting on “my generation”, I’ve long felt that we’ve been placing responsibility on the next generations to reconnect with nature, and “clean things up”. But, frankly, it’s up to us parents and caring adults to fall in love with nature ourselves, and include the kids in our lives and anyone else in our journey of rediscovery.

This doesn’t have to mean throwing ourselves into the wilderness and dragging our kids along (though it can). It can be as simple as deciding to take family wanders on a regular basis in open space preserves, or even just down the street in the evening or in local parks. It means being willing to be captivated by earthworms in the grass on a wet morning. It means taking time to slow down and have an outdoor fire of some kind and hearing each others’ tales.

It means being brave enough to tell our kids (and partners and spouses) that tonight we’re going to go for a walk outside instead of stay inside each watching or playing or listening to our respective medias. Or maybe we’ll play a board game, or drop by to say hello to a neighbor.

Rediscovering (or discovering for the first time) the comfort of climbing into a tree, or walking barefoot on dirt, or just touching a fluffy pussy willow catkin, is not just about connecting with nature and discovering that we are nature–it’s about rediscovering community, valuing community. The human relationship with nature is about experiencing it with each other (as well as alone). Healthy, resilient community is an expression of nature, and interwoven with an awareness of and relationship with nature.

When we discover ourselves to be at home in nature, whether we live in a suburb, city, or in a rural area, or enter as a traveler, we discover the true nature of ourselves. Nature speaks it, our true selves, all the time.

We are never truly separate from nature. The earth nourishes us, the air is our breath in each moment. The water of ancient seas cleanses and nourishes our bodies. The stars continue to offer guidance and wise story, even when we don’t see them, or think to look for them.

When we make a wish on a dandelion, when we nibble a wild berry, when we dip our toes in the sand or the waters, let it begin anew a conversation, if it’s been a long time for you. You’ll figure out what to do next. Draw in the sand with a stick, perhaps, or weave a daisy chain.

With a child who has never had the experience of climbing trees or building shelters, or hurtling down a “kid’s” trail through shrubs, be as quiet and patient as you would with a bird you’ve found fluttering on the ground. Discover where the child is truly alive and awake. Be open to where you might find an opportunity of the natural world reaching out to that child. You may lead by example, and depending on your relationship with the child, you may be able to coax them quickly to do something fun and wild with dirt or water or mud or shrubs, to notice the birds, or smell the trees and flowers. You may be able to dive right in and that child is right with you and quickly moves past you.

With other kids it may be much harder. So many messages abound right now to be careful, be clean, stay safe, don’t trust. With a child who won’t touch dirt, who is afraid of spiders, who is fearful of the trees, just take that perceptive, open approach, noticing the child herself. Be respectful. Maybe you notice the patterns of the clouds, maybe you notice the patterns in a flower. Maybe you tell a story about finding a treasure in a forest, or a magic stone on a sidewalk.

We can learn to be wild, or learn to be wild anew. I mean “wild” as in fully alive, experiencing the liveliness of the world all around us, the vigor that can be found anywhere–even between concrete slabs. Believe that you can find the heart of nature for yourself and in yourself, and believe that it can awaken for children who seem to you the most closed.

We are wired for nature! We all have a place within its story, and its story can always be found within ourselves. Believe in that, and then find out the first place where it is true. And go from there.