I woke in the dark, and was afraid. There are things in my life that are beyond my control. And while I know this to be a common thread in the human tapestry, sometimes I freak out anyway. This morning was one of those mornings. In fact, I had gone to bed in somewhat the same condition. Let me explain.
I have blood cancer. I was diagnosed 4 winters ago, just about this time of year. 4 years, and sometimes I am still slogging through the chaos of living with a disease that could kill me. I rationalize it: Life is a disease that could kill any of us, at any time, so what’s to worry about?
But this morning, in the dark of December, my illusion of control and normalcy is wearing thin. We all do it. We go through life with the illusion that the tragedies and the terrors happen to other people. And then, we become other people. When that happens it is as if the magical glass bubble that held our illusion has been broken.
My ‘bubble’ had been shattered years before the cancer diagnosis. It had come apart in the darkest hours of a December 12th night, in the hospital room where I held my infant daughter, rocking her. At the back of the room, the physician and nurses stood, tears in their eyes, on their cheeks.
Death is never easy.
The death of a year-old baby though seems the most unnatural aberration in the universe. Her breath had been coming slower and slower, farther and farther apart for hours. Until finally, the space between the exhale and the inhale seemed to span the distance between galaxies. And then, it didn’t come at all. I thought I was dying with her. Waiting for that next breath. There is still some part of me that is waiting for the inhale. Waiting. Still waiting. I can feel the pain so intense beneath my breastbone.
Today is December 11th. I am sick with a chest cold, which can be much more than a chest cold for a person with leukemia. It is so cold outside that I cannot fathom why I have not yet moved someplace warm. The snow is piled in a thick white blanket covering every evidence of green and earth. So when I woke up and was afraid, I wasn’t really surprised. We can cover up our grief and our fear with busyness, with noise, with action. But the body? The body always remembers. As a wise woman in my life recently told me, “The body always knows.”
While I pulled my robe over my shoulders, I reminded myself of all that I have been through and survived. Whispered words of comfort. Self soothing. But nothing could drown out the rising voice from within, “You are not safe! Nothing is safe!” And so I fought back tears as I made my way to the quiet warmth of the kitchen. On my way through, I looked out the backdoor window. She was standing in the snow.
Large almond eyes and a thick, heavy winter coat that was dusted with new falling snow, she stood between the two horse chestnut trees looking directly at me.
Deer have always brought me to the mystery. They allow me access to the great connection, the unified state of all beings. When I am in the presence of deer, it is what I imagine monks feel after hours and hours of meditation in the confines of a temple.
I am broken open, at one with everything. I experience Her. The first word that comes to my mind is Grace.
Grace as in the gentle kindness that is poured upon an individual in a moment of fear or sorrow. Grace as in a softness; an otherworldly benevolence.
Grace as in, a light in the dark.
The snow fell in a silent symphony. I stood, still, enjoying the beauty of her form in the predawn twilight. I waited, knowing there would be a message. I could feel that the energy of my daughter was entwined in the spirit of the doe. I waited.
Deer have been revered in many cultures across time, and Diana, Artemis, Flidais, and Elen of the Ways are all Goddess manifestations of that reverence. They are mother Goddesses, Goddesses of the wild places, of nature, of animals, of children and childbirth, and of sustenance and nurturing. Many are connected with Yule, and the disappearing light of December. Often, in myth, these Goddesses would shape shift into the form of a deer. Even with my modern knowledge, I feel the absolute truth of this before me.
I watch. My breath as quiet as the snowflakes falling one upon another. Peace flows over me. She lowers her shapely head, pawing away the foot of snow that covers the earth to find the green grasses beneath that still hold the energy of the lost sun. She nibbles the grass for a moment, and then swings her head up to look at me. And there it was. My message.
I must paw away at the fear. Move it aside. Come back to the green grasses of peace beneath. I have the power of Her within me. I am Her. I must remember:
The Darkness of December can seem to be never ending.
The sun seems to be eternally lost.
But it is still there.
It is always there.
The Great Wheel Turns.
Nothing and no one cease to exist.
It is all still here, even if it is held inside a single blade of grass.
Inside the graceful magic of the body of a deer.
We must look for it. Find it. Move through the darkness and uncover the light. The messages are always there. We have only to listen.
I return to my room. Light my candle. Another day begins.