Andrew, the kids, and I took a road trip through Northern California to Southern Oregon – up close to the coast and then down through the Cascade Range and the Eastern Sierras. We reunited with a best friend, played in the river, talked to the Redwoods, had breakfast in San Francisco, stood in the presence of volcanic power, washed our eyes and feet in bejeweled alpine lakes, soaked in massive beauty, saw places we’ve always wanted to see, experienced some crazy heat, escaped some fires (although we did drive super close to Mount Shasta but couldn’t see it as it was covered in smoke), and experienced the ridiculousness of traveling with children.
What made me think this would be a breather?
As we drove and drove through the ever changing landscape, I kept thinking about movement. Movement is our nature. Our bodies need it – bones, muscles, internal organs – our connective tissue’s health depends on mobility and agility. We are made by our moves, and shaped by the poses we strike – each leads to the next form in the project of who we are becoming. This body, this breath, this life, this person – we are a continuum. Every moment is a transition. Every pose ushers the next. Every pause is a shift.
The world seemed to come to a halt last year, and in ceasing to move, we all experienced change. Aliveness permeates endings just as much as it does beginnings. Stopping is a gateway to starting. Pausing gives room to shifting. Even in our greatest effort to slow down, time keeps on moving fast. Children grow up way too soon. We age way before we’re ready. Life never stops.
Life. Never. Stops. It won’t even stop when you or I die. Our form will dissolve into the earth, and nourish the soil out of which other life forms will emerge.
We might take breaks from the regular rhythms of our lives, but those breaks don’t stop our movement, they allow the direction to shift, or a variation to occur, or a different gesture to emerge.
Sometimes we feel stuck. But maybe we are like giant rocks – taking our sweet time to change, to be carved by winds, to be curved by water, to turn to sand.
On the 4th of July (which is by far my least favorite holiday), a gorgeous stag appeared while we were dealing with drying up the children after a beautiful day in the wildness of the river (escaping patriotism and immersing in the flow of Mama Nature), helping them change clothes, and figuring out what to feed them next. There’s always so much to deal with. Every step requires five. And everything takes forever.
There was still light out, but it was almost 9pm – the gifts of Summer in the north country. And there he was, with his majestic antlers. We saw a LOT of deer on this trip – they blessed us with their gentleness and innocence on many roads and trails, and even in the backyard of where we stayed in Oregon (mama deer and her two fawns). But when this stag came trotting, it was saying: “This is Stag Nation, my friends! This is where you can work through your stagnation!” It stared at us for a while, making sure his message penetrated every inch of closed mindedness, every pocket of stuckness, every area where vulnerability is crushed by certainty, all the places of resistance to hardship, and the spaces where I block off ease. And then it galloped into the woods.
A few minutes later, while we were still wrangling muddy little feet and clothes and snacks and resistances, a doe came frolicking. She seemed like she was looking for her beloved, and after giving us a long stare of reminder – You are in Stag Nation – she moved her elegant body in the direction of her mate , and disappeared behind the trees.
Life doesn’t stop, and yet we sometimes feel like it moves around us, instead of through us. Life moves, but we are somehow standing in place. Life is changing, but we are stuck behind.
Maybe it’s a problem. Maybe it’s an opportunity. Sometimes all we need is to shift our perspective. Other times we need radical action to shake things up. Other times still, we need small steps to take us out of stagnation. And sometimes we need to drive all the way to Stag Nation.
I’m not gonna say that my stagnant parts disappeared behind the trees with the doe. In fact, I’ll be totally honest – I came back from this journey soooooo grumpy. It was beautiful and hard and filled with tenderness and sleeplessness and disappointments and heart jewels. I am tired and grateful and agitated. But I do feel that inviting the gentleness of the deer, the flow of the river, the changing landscape of road tripping through mountains into my awareness, can birth the support that I need in my process of moving with, moving through, and at certain moments moving against the currents of my inner world and my outer circumstances.
This is not an easy time in the world. And life is not simple. But the playful, gentle, fertile nature of the deer, reminds us that we are here to lust and to love and to laugh, even though (and maybe because) life is fragile, dangerous, and difficult. Deer in the headlights will happen, because fear has its place and uncertainty is real. And so we can pause, and maybe turn off the lights, and be in the shadow, and stare back into the eyes of our freeze response, and make room for the fear, and give space to the stagnation. And watch it as it gallops away, turning into a brook, and leading us into Stag Nation.
If this speaks to you, and you want to embody it, put on some music and dance, roll on the floor, circle your hips around. Or go on a long walk on the beach, where the waves can kiss your feet. Or do Murgi Mudra (the gesture/seal of the deer): Bring your ring and middle fingers to touch your thumbs, and bring your deer hands to kiss – index fingers touch, pinky fingers touch, the back of the middle fingers, and the back of the ring fingers touch, as the tips of the thumbs gently touch as well. Sit, stand, or move with this mudra, and breathe, receive it, let it tell you something about your life.
If you find this moving (pun intended) in any way, keep the love flowing and share this with someone you think might benefit from it.