yourdeer: (Default)
[personal profile] yourdeer
(Rewritten to minimize rant, to add more of my own experiences, and to try to make the words a little prettier. Hoping to submit to the call for therian writings.)



There is a beautiful and romanticized image of the doe: she is graceful, elegant, and delicate. She is shy and unattainable, disappearing softly at the slightest sound. Her eyes are a cliche for the vulnerable, docile feminine, and a glimpse of her, staring back at you for a profound moment before she flies, is precious and moving.

I am not this doe.

In a way, I hate this doe, because no doe is really this doe. This doe is all loveliness, and when we think of her as real, we are ignoring that deer are animals with all the smelly, uncomfortable, awkward, violent, and inescapable truths of being a living animal.

When I ignore those truths I feel like a liar. I have never found it good, in myself, to pretend that what is pleasurable is not also without grace or dignity, or that what is often visceral or disgusting is not also beautiful or pleasurable. To pretend that all is sweet and beautiful is to halve my joys and bury truths, whether it is about humans or deer.

Does are not all gentleness or vulnerability. They are fussily aggressive and can easily be called cruel by human standards. In the hungry depth of winter, a healthy doe, a survivor able to stand her ground against others of her kind, will certainly do so. She will actively prevent other does and fawns from food, even if she has had her fill. She will fend a starving family away from food she has claimed, and wait until they have left before walking away from the excess.


Nor do deer always flee in the face of danger - several accounts chronicle deer attacking dogs and humans when threatened, in some cases quite brutally. Not many animals hold up closely to their romanticized stereotypes when their survival is put into question, but the desperate deer can be the exact opposite of its gentle popular image. Its slim, delicate hoofs become formidable and unexpected weapons that bruise, lacerate, and break bones. There is no obviously toothy snarl – with no top teeth, an open mouth is not incredibly threatening – there is less expression in the face than in thin legs flailing and aimed to hurt.

In these, I know my distrust and the unexpectedness of it when I express anger. I know the stamp and the annoyance of simply remaining unwelcoming until someone I dislike just goes away. I know the attack that is dormant until one of my own, rather than me, is threatened. I know the unpleasantness of social distrust and dislike that is present in most creatures, but I know it in the often-quiet, near-expressionlessness of deer.


The deer is no peaceful vegetarian. We now know that deer do kill, sometimes to eat, and that they will scavenge corpses – in winter, yes, but also in the rich-grassed summer. The beached fish, the young grounded bird, the dead rabbit or pile of refuse have all found their way into the deer’s ruminant stomach.

I have never linked my diet and the deer’s – there are few things that are as wonderfully, pleasantly human to me as the way we prepare food. And yet we are both omnivores, and I take some pleasure in knowing that there is no “only this” or “none of that” even in the deer’s diet.

 

Deer are not always shy or skittish, nor does shyness equate to solitude. There is coalition between the whitetail and the turkey; there is play with rabbits or raccoons; there is tolerance of the lone coyote or the harmless pet dog. There is not even always shyness of humans – as many longsuffering suburban or rural gardeners can attest to. The safe deer can be a bold one or a friendly one, and deer have been known to take social interest in many other species including geese, rabbits, and cats, among others.

The deer that is bold in safety is the deer that I am. Skittish and untrusting until someone has proven themselves to be no threat, I have utter openness with those closest to me – I can do exactly as I like, most of the time, and fear nothing. And as the deer, I like to keep those I feel safe amongst close to me.

 

Deer are not all grace and preciousness. They are cervids, and cervids are very olfactory animals. As deer, to communicate is to smell; as nonhuman mammal, a primary tool in this communication is urine. To advertise one’s presence is to wallow in one’s own fluids or to mark one’s hoofs with urine. Courting, and therefore mating and surviving, is dependent on what we might think of as a disgusting fact. And yet we would not have deer without it.

As a human, it puzzles me to be leery of sex fluids. Barring concerns related to pregnancy or diseases, it is an alien concept to that some may enjoy sex but be discomfited by the thing that gives the activity its smell, its texture. Thankfully, I do not need to use urine to communicate my interest in my partner, but to rid myself of the smells of sex is a sad thing. It may be a human impulse, but knowing that the deer does what it can to strengthen its smell during the rut allows me to accept my own tendency to wallow in the smell of the body.

 

It is rare that in the realm of animals we see a mating that we can call romantic or dignified. Deer are no exception whatsoever. And in the indignity of the mating animal, I can remember that the cultural image of human sex as a flawless, seamlessly, gracefully passionate event is only a construct by omission. The undignified vocalization, the silly sound or awkward movement, is no less wonderful than the more idealized aspects of the experience: I know this in the grunt and bellow and low-thrust neck of the deer.

The grace of the doe, the elegance, is not what makes me deer. The romantic stereotype exists, certainly: A deer does flee, and I do usually feel more inclined to flight than to stand ground. The deer can be elegant, and there are times when I feel lightness of foot and ease of movement in a tall, heavy-boned but lithe body. The deer is vulnerable, and I feel vulnerable in the way that I recognize deer are very, very easy to kill – living in a rural place with a deer population larger than the human one, I saw a great deal of dead deer, and the mortality of the whitetail was impossible to ignore in a hunting community that also supports a healthy population of eastern coyotes.

And yet I do not feel graceful. Usually I feel colossally awkward, and something about deer speaks of that awkwardness to me. Being spooked about nothing, the awkward indignation of being disturbed, the skittering flight, the leggy leaps and funny-mouthed chewing – these are all deer. Some of these things are aspects of the romantic stereotype, but I do not perceive them in a romantic way. I do not think being deer makes me beautiful, desirable, or delicate.

To believe that being deer is a naked positive, without its stupid, its gross, its unpleasant-to-think-of, is to lie. Yes, there are things about deer that I think are lovely and ideal and that I relate to, often very much. I love the flick of the ears, the clarity of the gaze, the small cloven hoof poised not quite touching the ground, the flag of the tail, the sudden and fleeting bounding away. These are things that I can feel. But I can also feel the awkward stretch of the neck for browse, the indignation of being encroached upon, the need to hide, to flee, to fear. I can feel the undignified sound of the grunt and wheeze, the frozen discomfort of surprise and being caught in the headlights of night blindness, the flailing hoofs, and the hurried skitter away.

I can't deny the beauty and seriousness of feeling deer, or of following a deer path through the woods. I can't ignore the rough comfort of bark and the darkness of the woods’ smell, the depth of moss and flat beds in tall grass. But I also can't ignore that deer paths are liberally punctuated with droppings, that fur and gristle sticks to the front bumper for too long, that the deer’s bawl and bellow are ridiculous on the ears, or the way a buck’s carcass hangs without ceremony in November. The subtlety and quiet of the deer path, yet unavoidably littered with small piles of scat, for me, is an adequate metaphor for my experience of being doe: I can acknowledge the beautiful and wonderful, but must take into account the awkward and uncomfortable as well. I would not be deer if I could not accept both the loveliness and the unpleasantness of the doe.



yourdeer: (pull)
[personal profile] yourdeer

Sometimes, horse is comfortable. There is respite, relaxed head angled towards the ground with eyelashes drooping close to one another, and there is high-spirited energy and determination, and there is strength for another’s need. But frequently, horse is irritated, angry, tired, panicked, overworked; it is an intolerant nag with thick legs, a heavy nose, and a poor temper. When I am horse, I am a huge animal – a creature that belongs in front of a plow or cart with straining legs or heavy clattering hooves, rather than one of flowing mane and gracefully bent trotting legs. I am not frequently a fun horse to be around; I am fussy and likely to kick, and will only grudgingly enjoy the pleasure of the curry-comb or carrot. But when I do, I will sigh heavily, close my eyes, and lean into it, grateful.

Anger, irritation, overwork, panic, and yet determination and pleasure to serve: I am horse in these states because other animals don’t fit the way I feel these things.

My anger does not have sharp teeth or claws or an agile, twisting body. It has flat, mean teeth, blunt hoofs, and weight, and sudden unexpectedness. It is not predatory – it simply desires to rid itself of all that is in its way. It will not rip or tear or devour; instead, it will bludgeon, and it will crush.

My irritation is the sharp slam of hoof on stall wall. It is the likelihood of lashing out with a swift and bruising kick or flat-toothed bite. Don’t come near me, don’t touch me, don’t make me do. It mistrusts. It has flattened-back ears and locked thick knees and obstinacy.

Horse is the foul mood of overwork, of being overburdened. It is the difficulty to relax after being demanded to do what benefits others. Though I need to feel useful and take great pleasure in it, there is that point where I balk, resistant to being useful for a moment longer. It is the indignant squeal, the little tricks to make it harder – puffing up to sabotage the tightening of the girth, keeping my head out of reach of the bridle, nearly squashing your foot without a thought. There is the bitter anger at those who should be working alongside me, but aren’t, and the open rage at the lazy thing pulling in the traces beside me.

There is panic, too, at being too crowded or faced with those unthreatening threatening things that come as sudden changes. It is a rearing, bucking sort that nearly topples itself and will damage others as much as it will break me. Though my body remains still, internally I rise and plunge, wild and sweating with white-rimmed, rolling eyes. It breaks when the crowd is gone and I am in the fresh air or home, or when I am spent, legs shaking, head down and done.

In these times, when I am the horse that is nag, it is comforting to remember that I am human, though somewhere inside there is an unpleasant and unhappy equine. I remember, when I am one human body packed tightly among many on the commute home, that I can will myself to stand still; picturing what I would be if I were the kicking, rearing horse reminds me that in my human body, I can remain as I am without hurting myself or those around me. I can quell my panic and wait to get home. The horse that I am would kill without qualms or intention, and most likely end up with broken legs myself – as a human, I can grit my teeth until “Next Stop: Washington Square” and then rush through the crosswalk and home.

 

            But besides all this there is determination and hard work. There is the big, hearty energy to give to another, to take directions and leap forward with them, to pull with all my strength with the result of joy and satisfaction, shared. There is the plodding work, the steady, persevering, low-headed forward movement towards the end goal of rest or praise. When I return home, it is the comfort of cozy stall or pasture, of my own space where I can do as I like, whether it is to roll without dignity or to sleep or to frolic. There is the feeling that horse was first remembered from, when deer pulling carts didn’t make sense, but horse, yes – heavier hooves and a more purposeful movement forward, carrying the purpose of others besides myself. It is, too, the rollicking carrying of big love, the wealth of my heart in the wagon on which perch the people I love.


epsilon_pegasi: (giraffe: portrait)
[personal profile] epsilon_pegasi
I'm typing up my writings in preparation for a personal site and thought this short introduction to "my" giraffe might be of interest:


What giraffe sees is far away.

Giraffe belongs to the open spaces. Wide and lacking coverage, the giraffe feels safe only where all is visible. Above it, and breathing it in. Aware, vigilant seer who is always seen. There is no hiding when you’re a giraffe. Always seeking threats, never relaxing the aerial visions. The giraffe fears only what it cannot see, too many lions to focus on, what unknowns lurk in shadows and bushes. A giraffe must know. But the threats, when found, are either far away or close enough to kick. Cautious of the world though it may be, the giraffe is above-it-all in more than a literal sense, feeling almost otherworldly in its consciousness. Detached.

Eyes wide on the horizon, stilts walk without feeling the ground, giraffe lives in the treetops while the hooves remain earthbound. But for the tickle of grass against the ankles, the world of under-foot is too far to know, or care. Giraffe moves as if levitating, drifting through life without attachments. The giraffe does not form lasting bonds, groups being loose and ever-changing. A giraffe may make company of zebras, or birds even, but isn’t prone to kinship.

Neck is more than height. It is for touching, a way to communicate desire or competition. A strong appendage that will take beatings of bones and poundings of flesh. Feel the air blowing around it, catching scents from above, and hearing the distance. Blood rushes through it, pounding, for war, for love, for food. It is the life-giver to a giraffe. The tongue extends onwards towards leaves, wrapping around rough branches, taking even the thorns, which the mouth is hard enough to devour without feeling their pricks. Many things to the giraffe are without feeling.

The Egyptians made the hieroglyphic of “prophecy” in the shape of a giraffe, and depicted them in tombs as a means to foretell danger, because its keen vision saw beyond the horizons of others. In The Book of Going Forth by Day, the giraffe is said to be a demon that guards travelers in the underworld. They were kept as pets by many cultures, and the giraffe, though wild, can take captivity in stride, not being a creature willful for wildness.


yourdeer: (kenn monster)
[personal profile] yourdeer
I realize I haven't really introduced myself.

My parents, Polish immigrants, call me Mania (Mah-nyah); it is my nickname since childhood. As a little thing my fingers were always bent to form hands into paws, arms spread as wings, toes pointed into hoofs - I was any animal, all the animals; I could find a home in cat, dog, mouse, horse, hawk. I remember my mother urging me to uncurl my fingers and hold my hands normally, her discomfort with my need for paws. I remember my dad helping me make a jumping course in the backyard by hammering nails into picket stakes that I could force into the ground and place a dowel across and gallop around, leaping over, whinnying.
My childhood friends christened me Mare - with my deep love of horses - drawing, riding, pride in imitating snorts and whinnies, it was naturally what made sense when we sought nicknames in a childish pledge of eternal friendship.
My best friend, and I in our quiet teenage mischief lived in the symbols of fox and raccoon - she with her quiet rage, pride in her tail, and physical playfulness, me a little more friendly with stripes and little deft hands and curious nose, we gave testament to this with countless drawings, figurines, and matching fox and raccoon plushies.
I wrote a lot of stories in high school, and found it easy as one heavily invested in fantasy novels to create a species that would be the focal point for my drawings and fictions for four years: a patchwork and exaggerated combination of horse, deer, hyena, and raccoon: a blunt, toothy head with long delicate ears, a long maned neck, long thin legs ending in deft and ankled paws, a barrel chest, arching hip, matriarchal social structure, and vastly bushy striped tail. When I made prints at the local Staples they knew me as "the girl with the bunnyhorses".
My ex-girlfriend called me a lion, and it perplexed and somehow hurt me - I did not feel, at the time, like lion was anything pleasant - entitled, possessive, lazily male. She had meant it lightly, a pet name referring to my then-spiky mane and boyishness, but I was doubtful for a long time before embracing it as a sleepy, possessive, protective, and sexually starved identity of the adolescent lion with half-grown mane, lanky legs and stark ribcage, of not-there-yet, of waiting.
Deer had been building slowly for years and then came to the surface all at once. One of my favorite books as a child was about deer; at home in northern New England the white-tail and its tracks and bones were a common finding; across the road a hunting camp had a buck every season and brought venison to my parents which I refused to eat; I found a skeleton of a doe the first winter after leaving home and cleaned and disassembled it and reassembled it in sections - it hangs in my bedroom at my apartment. Deer was woken up within me by another animal-person who was living as such, while I had been tucking away any animality for years. It was pointed out to me that I was doe, skittish with a long, quiveringly sensitive neck, long thin legs, alternating indignation and readiness to flee. I have heard "You really are a deer" numerous times from numerous people over the past year.

At the present juncture I let these all flow through me as distillations of the aspects of my character, I am each at different times. Sometimes it is the stress and strength and powerful destructive jaws of the hyena that I feel; sometimes the deft paws, mischief, indignity and confidence of the raccoon; sometimes the willingness to pull for another, the heavy hoofs, steady gate and flat teeth of the horse; sometimes the desire, entitlement and sleepy possessiveness of the lion; usually the swiveling ears, skittishness, the long neck and the quiet of the doe.

Duiker

Aug. 4th, 2008 08:48 pm
[identity profile] wampus-cat.livejournal.com
I decided to scrap the essay/blurb/whatever that I had started writing and instead write something more in-depth- and more "me"- about duiker (and eventually one about puma). It needs refining, but I thought I'd post it here and see what everyone thinks. Oh, and if someone could suggest a better title, please do. :P


The Dao of Duiker )
[identity profile] sonne-windsoul.livejournal.com
I finally got this essay finished, even though I had planned to start and finish it a few weeks ago.  There's the potential for me to eventually add some more to it (in the copy I'll have on my site), particularly in the cat and horse sections, if I should later on decide to include any other aspects or experiences that seem relevant which I didn't cover in it at this point.

What I am

Mar. 31st, 2008 03:47 pm
[identity profile] wampus-cat.livejournal.com
My personal animalness essay. A work in progress. Feel free to leave comments or questions about anything in it, or anything I haven't covered.

Humanimal )

Threats

Nov. 13th, 2007 09:38 pm
[identity profile] sonne-windsoul.livejournal.com
These two pieces were written months apart from each other but pertained to the same "threat" and I think they show an interesting contrast between the reactions (to the same thing) of my cat and horse aspects. The actual "threat" isn't as serious or dangerous as it may sound in these, but that's part of what I wanted to portray--a basic, instinctive response that wasn't as rational and logical as that of my human mindset, because this is how I believe I experience some of the mentalities of feline and horse, and thus I sought to capture them finally (or one event/type of reaction) in writing while they were occurring in my mind. Though the first one, "Feral Fire", incorporates more of my human thought into it, particularly in the last stanza, than the second piece, which kind of reflects the prominency and level of blending with my human aspect that my cat 'type has been the past couple of months.

[identity profile] sonne-windsoul.livejournal.com

I took a somewhat broader and more extensive approach for the "representation of Self" prompt option (I think this is the first time I actually got a writing finished the month it's a chosen prompt).  As usual I'll also be putting this essay up on my website soon.


When it comes to an image or concept of mine in which to represent myself, or for what I “look like” in my mind’s eye, there is no defining answer to that.  Although I’m a visual artist and love to do depictions of various things I imagine or see in my mind, including character concepts, I don’t recall ever ‘seeing’ a clear, or even remotely clear, visual image of myself in my mind.  Honestly, how I ‘view’ myself is actually more understanding and “feeling” than it is visualization, though there is some visualization to it.  There’s also not one sole way I view myself, it’s a somewhat fluid concept that extends to certain boundaries—within my theriotypes and certain human or humanoid concepts I have of myself, but within those boundaries it’s not a concrete, solid concept.  There is some idealism to it, though not much I’ve consciously chosen, and specifics are few.

 

Hoof Dance

Jun. 11th, 2007 11:18 am
[identity profile] wampus-cat.livejournal.com
Just a blurb I wrote last week about one of my possibly ungulate-y behaviors. :)

Hoof Dance )

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