Every day, I walk across the parking lot, to the other side of this complex, in order to fix meals for my Mom who lives alone and is recovering from a broken bone. About half way between my place and hers, a piece of concrete statuary lies directly in the path of my vision, on the other side of a wire mesh cyclone fence. It is of a deer, specifically a doe, resting on the backyard lawn of a house that faces North. Her legs are folded beneath her, but her head is up, ears pricked in alert awareness.
There are days when I don’t even look in her direction, propelled forward by my own inner musings. Then there are those days, when in my peripheral vision, I swear, she swivels her head and intently watches my progress from here to there and back again.
Deer are gentle, seemingly fragile creatures. Their one main weapon is the power in their back haunches which propels them forward as they race with agile speed away from danger. They move so fast that they can literally run themselves to death, exploding a heart that is overtaxed by such rapid and prolonged exertion. Therein lies a lesson that each of us must heed.
According to Native American folklore, the deer is a symbol of gentleness, especially that kind which must be extended toward self. Gentleness has a peculiar strength, and strength is only as strong as the gentleness that counters and balances it. I am not speaking of weakness, but of a genuine tenderness toward self and others. An awareness of energy sources and proceeding from that reality.
I have been disabled since 2004 with a severe back condition that limits a great deal of my mobility. I move slowly because it is unwise for me to do otherwise. In other words, I can’t run anywhere, and may eventually end up in a wheelchair. The thought of that sends my mind scurrying as my body can not ever do.
I used to fight my reality, pushing myself to keep up with others more physically capable and paying a high price for such antics. I love to dance, but only end up with pain that lasts for days afterward should I engage in that desire to move with the music. It’s frustrating, to say the least.
On those days, when I feel a bit unsteady, I use a cane. So does my Aunt, who is approximately fifteen years older than I am and loves to dance as much as I do. About a year ago, we attended a wedding and danced to some slow music while using our canes, grinning at one another as we did so. Neither of us lasted for the whole song, but it was fun none the less.
That is just one aspect of the gentleness of which I speak. We didn’t overdue, but we did allow ourselves those few moments of pleasure and found laughter and satisfaction in doing so. Created a memory that brings a smile to lips on the gloomiest of days.
Gentleness holds within it, a strength of wisdom and acceptance. Acceptance that is not resignation. Resignation drains energy, while acceptance stores that energy and uses it wisely. But, back to the statue of the doe and her significance at this present time. She is a constant reminder to slow down, breathe deeply, and move with a gentle spirit. Some of us take entire life times to learn that lesson. Others never do.
There are a great many advantages to moving slowly. First, and possibly foremost, is that it allows one to actually observe, and absorb, far more of the details that would get lost at higher speeds. Details that can become future connective links stored in intuition. A slower pace also allows the space for those links to actually connect and make themselves heard and even understood.
That slower pace also allows me to be present to the moment when it arrives. My slow walk over to my Mother’s apartment allows me to let go of what I was doing and to center in on what awaits me there. She is ninety years old and needs whatever element of gentleness I can gather on my way. Any amount of gentleness, I can claim in route is its own reward for her, as well as myself. The deer statue has become a signal to switch gears, putting my focus on her needs rather than my own.
I moved back here in order to spend time with her, whatever time we both might have left. I have become one of her primary caregivers, and although that was my intent, it isn’t always easy. But, the gentle acceptance I have found has blossomed into other creative endeavors as well.
When the weather permits, we sit on Mom’s patio and enjoy the sunshine and all of the small wild creatures that inhabit that space surrounding us. I am teaching her how to whistle up the cardinals that populate this area, and she giggles when she hears their response. She used to paint landscapes and is deeply interested in the coloring projects I sometimes bring along with me, making comments and suggestions for further exploration.
Someday soon, I am hoping Mom will want to begin taking slow walks with me. Then I can introduce her to her silent, but very wise and gentle neighbor. I think they might like one another, I certainly do.