I was out on my evening walk a few nights ago when a young buck crossed my path.
It was a little after sunset, that time of night when figures start to fade in the growing shadows. I had gone a little over a mile and was coming up on two potato sheds when he sprung out from behind them and trounced across the road.
He caught me by surprise. I’ve seen deer two-to-three times in this area over the past 15 years, but never a buck. And never while walking. It’s not a common occurrence.
I stopped while he made his way into the wheat field on my left, but he’d spotted me, so he ran, or rather, bounced over the tall, mature stalks. After he’d put a good distance between us, he stopped to look back at me, his small, elegant rack etched out against the backdrop of the golden wheat.
He did that a few more times—bounce, stop, look back—until he was so far into the distance I could barely make out the black mark that was his body in the fading light.
I came back home from my walk feeling a little elevated, blessed to have had a close encounter with a wild creature. It doesn’t happen that often, and they have such a unique energy about them. It’s like they go by and sprinkle wild dust on you, and you remember again what it’s like to feel truly alive.
I expected that would be that. The buck would make his way to new pastures and it would years before I’d come across anything like that again.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the very next night, I was walking up the same road and looked to my left to see what I thought at first was the same buck coming toward me.
Who’s the Intruder Here?
The animal walked through the same wheat field in which he’d made his escape the night before. I figured he must have grown tired of whatever he was finding to eat there and had decided to return to where he came originally. I stopped to watch.
He was much closer than he’d been the previous evening. I had gone only about a quarter mile when I saw him. As I waited, he closed the distance between us. Fast.
It didn’t take me long to realize this wasn’t the same buck. This guy wasn’t slim and light and darting about like a dragonfly. This guy was a floating cruiser, his monstrous horns like trees sprouting out of the sides of his head and carried along as easily as uprooted branches on a powerful river current.
Nerves awoke on the back of my neck. Either he hadn’t seen me or he didn’t care, because he didn’t hesitate. He came on in that floating gait, his shadow etched against the horizon looming larger the closer he got. I couldn’t have been more than 20 yards away from him.
I started to think about everything I knew about wild animals, especially big male ones. With his mighty rack he could have tossed me to the other side of the field in a heartbeat, and I had nothing to protect myself.
As he came on I heard his footsteps in the soft ground, thumps so heavy I began to wonder if I was seeing a big bull elk rather than a stag, but then he came to the road.
The tall stalks of grain fell away and I could see his legs, skinny compared to the rest of him, definitely deer, not elk legs, but that didn’t take away from his intimidating power, the way he commanded the space around him as if on that spot, between one field and another, only he had the right to exist.
I was the stranger; the intruder.
The Big Buck Grabs a Bite
I didn’t move. He crossed into the potato field, stepped up to the fresh greens, lowered his head and commenced doing…something. I’m still not sure exactly what. It had to be eating, of some kind?
The potato plants are tall, green, and stout this time of year, and I could imagine that they might be tasty to him. But he was grunting, and moving his head, brushing his rack of horns back and forth through the leaves.
It was hard to see in the growing darkness, but I wondered if maybe he was scratching an itch, so to speak. I waited, unsure about walking. My time for exercise was running short, what with the rapidly fading light, but I didn’t feel great about the idea of startling such an animal, if, indeed, he’d somehow failed to notice my presence.
He took another couple steps and again lowered his head. I watched him do this strange ritual: grunt and sweep his face against the leaves, crunch a few, then grunt and sweep again. Gradually, I grew more confident. He had his tail, not that threatening head, toward me, so I took a couple steps. Quietly.
Head up. Flee. He didn’t even look back to see what had moved, just thundered across that field like a thoroughbred, 300-pounds of power rumbling the ground so that it vibrated at my feet, his heavy hooves tearing into the field to escape the predator that had disturbed him.
I stood watching until he faded from view, then continued my walk. Down by the potato sheds, the lithe young buck I had seen the night before showed himself again, heading back from the same wheat field. When I saw him, I wondered if he was following the large one—from a safe distance, of course.
He headed up immediately, much more alert—or nervous—than his larger cousin, so I turned around just short of my target distance, to avoid scaring him off. Last I looked back, nearly a quarter mile up the road, he was still in the same place, large ears erect on the side of his head, black nose pointed my way, deep eyes watching.
Were the Sightings Simply Coincidence?
Seeing one buck deer at dusk isn’t all that unusual, though this is the first time in 15 years I’ve seen one around here.
But seeing two—with the second one so close, and so impressive—made me pause a little. A coincidence, I’m sure, that one just happened to cross paths with me at the same time I was out walking.
But to have the same thing happen twice in a row, the second time closer and more intense than the first?
The fields are wide around here. There are miles and miles of land over which wild critters can roam. And they just happened to cross my path at the exact time I was on the road, twice.
If I had left just a little earlier, or even five minutes later, I probably wouldn’t have seen either one. Certainly I wouldn’t have come so close to the big beast.
Coincidences happen. But I have a curious mind, so I dug into it a bit.
What might it mean to cross paths with a stag?
The Stag as a Symbol
The first thing I saw in my research was an image that reminded me of the stag in the television show, “Hannibal.” The main character, Will Graham, sees it as a recurring motif in his hallucinations.
What that means in the series is up for debate (and has been debated across many sites), but it reminded me of a dream-like state, that sense of seeing something unfold that’s not really real, but yet contains meaning.
Stag symbolism is included in many of our modern-day tales, from Harry Potter, who believes the stag-shaped “patronus” is the spirit of his father in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, to The Game of Thrones, which starts out with the House of Baratheon, symbolized by the stag, pitted against the House of Lannister, symbolized by the Lion.
The stag appears just as Bilbo and the dwarves finish crossing the Enchanted Stream in The Hobbit, thought to be a sign that the travelers are moving from the “outside” lands to the more enchanted and magical lands of the elves.
Older tales, as well, are filled with the creature. King Arthur never catches his coveted white stag, but his hunt for it leads him on many adventures to mystical places—a hunt that is sometimes said to be akin to his own spiritual quest. The animal also leads the children to safety in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Look up the stag as a spirit animal, and you’ll find repeated the idea that the animal represents an “in between,” a world connecting dreams and wakefulness—the world of intuition. The antlers are said to direct one to a higher awareness, acting like a spiritual antennae and urging us to pay more attention to our inner thoughts and perceptions.
In Welsh traditions, the stag is said to lead seekers deeper into the mysteries of the otherworld, to serve as a messenger or gateway between this world and the next, and to be a symbol of spiritual or cross-dimensional journeying. If one crosses paths with the creature, it is supposed to enhance sensitivity to dreams and their meanings, offering a greater intuition into one’s life and future.
Some say the stag is a symbol of change, an invitation to adventure, or perhaps to new paths of creativity. Judith Hirst says on her blog, “Judy’s Angels and Ancestors Blog:”
“Stag, therefore, brings messages around creation—being the creator that you were meant to be. He asks that you allow your self to birth the new idea and impregnate it with life, to become a full blown project.”
Time to Tune Into Your Intuition
All of this has an interesting connection to my life at the moment. I have been brainstorming a new project for the last couple months, researching and gathering information and reading up on a number of sources to help educate myself.
It’s something unlike anything I’ve ever done before, so naturally I’m a little nervous about it. Am I really up to it? Is this the right decision, to pursue this project at this time? Will this take me the direction I want to go over the next several years?
If one were to take the sighting of the stag as a spiritual omen, one might say that it’s inviting me to move forward, without hesitation, and to tune into my own intuition to guide me.
I’m also knee-deep into my next novel, in which the characters walk a thin line between this world and the next. My work on it has become more intense and more focused lately. In a way, I’ve been inhabiting the world of the “in between” for the last several weeks.
Interesting connections, if I chose to make them. But that’s only if one were to see it that way. One could just as easily see the sightings as coincidences, chance happenings on a country road at dusk, between a wheat field and a potato field.
I might agree with the latter, but just now, when I got up to get another glass of water, I noticed the calendar I have pinned to my corkboard in the kitchen. It’s not one I look at often, just one of those freebies I got in the mail from a local automotive center.
I glanced at it, and stopped.
The picture for the month?
You may have guessed.
Sighting number three.
Note: I had a real third sighting a couple days after finishing this post. The same young buck crossed the road in front of me for the last time. Giant tractors and diesel trucks filled the wheat field, as it was harvest time. I was shocked he hadn’t gotten out of there long before that moment, as they’d been working most of the day. I’ve seen neither buck since.
Kendra Spring Klasek, “Oh Deer! There’s a Stag in My Living Room,” TheLivingRemindersBlog, 2015, http://thelivingremindersblog.blogspot.com/2015/10/oh-deer-theres-stag-in-my-living-room.html.
“June Totems: Stag,” American Folklore Witchcraft, June 1, 2011, http://afwcraft.blogspot.com/2011/05/june-totems.html.