Over the last few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about stags. At the beginning of the year I even started making a scrapbook about them. Bits of writing, pictures cut out of here and there, thoughts and emotions that come to me when I muse on the beauty and sacred majesty of these amazing animals. And I’ve had a picture in my mind for quite some time of a piece of artwork I want to create using some of this imagery…
A part of me knows that the stag has come to me at a time when I’m wanting to understand more the balance of yin and yang forces within me, and especially to embrace more of my masculine spirit . And then there is the sovereign energy that, for me, stags embody so completely. You only have to see one of those archetypal pictures of a red deer stag standing proud on the side of a Scottish mountain to know what I mean.
Grace. Strength. Pride. Presence. Majesty. Poise. Dignity. Balance. These are all words that come to me when I think of stags, words that I have been reflecting on in terms of my own way of being in the world. (Sometimes the comparisons are laughable… sometimes inspiring… sometimes they might even ring a little true – ahh those days are when life feels really, really good)
Now, at least, I have one component (well, two really) to keep my artistic vision alive. Antlers. I have wanted some for years, and never really known how to (ethically) go about getting my hands on some. In Arctic and temperate regions, stags (and, notoriously, female reindeer, the only does to also always grow antlers) obviously grow and lose a set of antlers each year, so it’s not like antlers have to be removed from the animal in order to get hold of them. And still I always knew some would come to me by another route. And so they did, by way of a wonderful friend as a 36th birthday present this year. They now sit on my desk, waiting for me to get myself together to use them in the way I’ve been imagining for a few years now. The time will come… soon…
The process of antler growth and loss each year completely amazes me. And I understand HOW it happens, but WHY? It’s not enough for me to hear “It’s just what they do.” Surely nature has more of a reason than simply “Well, why not?” Is it, as I’ve read, more an evolutionary survival technique, to allow deer in colder climates freer movement in winter and spring conditions? In many ways, it doesn’t really matter – it’s the process of death, loss, shedding, re-growth, renewal and regeneration that resonates so deeply with me. The eternal spiral on which everything within nature and, of course, ourselves, rotates.
Autumn is the rutting season for deer in the UK and yesterday, the same wonderful, antler-giving friend and I went on a Dawn Deer Walk at one of our local National Trust properties, where they have one of the finest fallow deer herds in the country. It was an early, EARLY start, but as light began to creep into the sky, we knew we were being blessed with a perfect Autumn morning, and all our tiredness fell away.
Have you ever heard a stag (or buck as fallow deer males are called) bellow? The noise is unbelievable. And when the sound comes to you in the dark, or through the mist, it is even more incredible. Not only were we treated to many moments of these amazing sounds, we also saw numerous ruts in action, bucks’ antlers locked in battle over who would assert themselves as ‘champion’ in that particular stand. It felt like a very great honour to be able to witness such moments at such close proximity, the bucks seemingly oblivious to our awed presence, the does a little more nervous.
Our guide for the walk kept describing mornings and moments like these as “magical”, and indeed, we could think of no better word to describe the experience of witnessing it all. And it made me feel truly grateful, once again, for this land of ours, where, amongst all the busyness and urban sprawl and noise and confusion, we can still find moments of pure wildness. Moments that stop us in our tracks, make us catch our breath, and gently remind us that long after humans are gone from this land, these moments will go on.
And then the sun came up and it was time for us to leave all that magic behind… keeping just a little bit of it in our hearts forever. And of course, I still have my antlers, which, most magically of all, came from this very same herd. But more on those and the creative masterpiece I am still yet to start another time…
(And here’s a link to the official video for Martha Tilston’s beautiful song, Stags Bellow, one of my most favourite songs by one of my most favourite artists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2BVN91wW28 – a soundtrack to my ramblings perhaps…)