Thursday, February 04, 2010

Walking in the Path of the Deer

Life’s Small Pleasures by Kristen Boyesen
Published in The Bedford Standard, Feb. 4,2010.

“Four degrees, feels like minus 5,” said for Bedford at 9 AM. The sun was shining off thin lines of snow atop each branch of every tree and shrub. By 10:00, I was booted up with camera in hand ready to enter brisk morning air.

What a gorgeous day! I headed for Ellenwood Park and was glad to see that my off-path trail had not been filled in with additional snowfall. I could clearly see my footstep indentations from two days before.

There are three small parks that connect to Ellenwood Park: Automile Park (off Broadway), The Bedford Municipal Pool (off Lamson) and the Bioswale (behind City Hall.) This collection of planted trees, shrubbery, nature-grown trees and brush, a small feeder stream to Tinker’s Creek, bioswale holding ponds, rolling hills, mowed lawn and wild places is home to a herd of at least six deer. Today I walked in their path, and saw that they had walked in mine. By following their fresh tracks from this morning, I discovered the herd’s nighttime resting place for last night. *

Ted Andrews, in his book Animal Speak, says that deer are a symbol of “gentle luring to new adventure,” a “return to wilderness,” and an indicator that it is time for “new perceptions and degrees of perceptions to grow and expand.” The gentleness of the deer encourages this new growth through gentleness, rather than by force. Interestingly enough, on my way to Ellenwood, I encountered a flock of six robins on this cold January day. The extensive red breast of the robin signifies “new growth in all areas of life.”

These are wonderful thoughts with which to start the New Year. Resolutions are typically forced and hardly ever kept except by constant force, which is tiring, stressful, and may create emotional or physical dis-ease (a lack of ease or actual illness) as we criticize ourselves too harshly for not keeping to the “new leaf” that we turned over.

The key to new growth and to understanding ourselves, our relationships, and the world around us is gentleness. Another way of expressing it is “effortless effort” or “not forcing it”, key concepts of the Wu Wei of Taoism.

I have lived in this house for five years. For four of those years I did everything I could to keep the deer out of my back yard: hair, soap, rotten eggs, fencing. My shrubs were broken by the males in the Fall, rubbing itchy antlers against rough bark. Beans, lettuce, and tomatoes were eaten off just prior to harvest. Flowers disappeared while displaying bountiful color. I would run into the yard yelling and clapping my hands in an attempt to make them leave for good. I went so far as to ask politely for them to live somewhere else. None of it worked.

One day last spring I pushed aside some weeds under the elderberry patch to retrieve some bricks I had stored there and nearly stepped on a newborn fawn.

That was the beginning of my acceptance of their place in my world and the start of effortless effort with regard to my gardens. Instead of attempting to enclose the entire yard, I enclosed patches of plantings with garden fencing. My space/your space. We shall live here together. The fawn turned out to be the male of a boy/girl set of twins. They spent much of the summer visiting my yard, sleeping under the shrubs, the spruce trees or next to the fencing. There are plants inside the fenced areas that need to come out, and plants outside the fencing need to go inside. (Why protect plants they do not eat?) Effortless effort will be employed for these plants to exchange places.

How does effortless effort work when one is sweating with a shovel? By enjoying the process. By gentleness with yourself and the task. The amazing thing is, just as much will get done, as the body does not tire as fast with mindful gardening. When need to stop to go on the other things, you will be amazed at how much was accomplished and how good you feel.

Give yourself a Valentine. Life’s Small Pleasures create big changes in your life.

Kristen Boyesen is a resident of Bedford offering art and meditation-based classes and workshops for core creativity training and empowerment for change. She belongs to the American Holistic Medical Association Speakers Bureau, the Bedford Senior Network, and Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio. She gives rehabilitation workshops at the Brecksville VA Medical Center and is a graduate student in Art Therapy and Counseling at Ursuline College. Contact her at Kboyesen(at) Quotes from: “Animal Speak” © 1993 Ted Andrews.

* Photos from this morning’s walk in the path of the deer may be seen at


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