The Ray Buck at Miraflores

By Donna Fontanarose Rabuck, Ph.D.

On Monday morning, December 28th, I was sitting on the front porch having a cup of tea. I was also praying, a long prayer for the world, the earth, people I have lost this year and friends I am holding in my heart, and ending with prayers for our family; my husband, daughter. and myself. Feeling especially downhearted, I plaintively asked the Goddess for a sign to help me along my path.

The very moment I finished the prayer, I heard what sounded like hooves on the asphalt pavement of the road. A majestic buck was walking down the street and stopped right in front of the me, not 40 feet away, where he was framed like a tableau by the trellis. The sun shone down on mighty felted antlers with more points than I could count, reaching toward and outlined by the sky. He was strong and radiant, the sacred masculine in his prime, well-filled out, with a burnished caramel coat and a large white tail. The buck stayed still and regal for about 3 minutes, then turned around and went closer to the other side of the road, searching for a place with clear acreage and no fence. I wished him well and thanked him for coming. The buck twitched his left ear, turned his head left, in my direction, then veered right as I watched him bound gracefully into an open yard that would lead him to a trail.

I was transfixed by the deer’s strength and presence - as if from another time, in the midst of my westside Tucson neighborhood, on Camino Miraflores. For me, with a last name of Rabuck (pronounced ray-buck) this totem was especially meaningful. The buck meant persistence, strength, beauty, life, endurance, and magic, the kind I haven’t seen or experienced in a very long time.

When I went to Animal-Speak to explore the meaning of this guide , I read that Deer’s keynote is “Gentleness and Innocence - Gentle Luring to New Adventure.” And those bedazzling antlers:

“Antlers are symbols of antennae, connections to higher forms of attunement. Deer with antlers thus can be a signal to pay attention to your inner thoughts and perceptions, as they are probably more accurate than you think. …Anyone who has deer as a totem will find increasing ability to detect subtle movements and appearances. They will begin to hear what may not be said directly….The antlers are shed every year, and each year they grow back larger and with more points, for five years. If a deer has entered your life, look for new perceptions and degrees of perception to grow and expand for as much as the next five years It can indicate that there will be opportunities to stimulate gentle new growth increasingly over the next few years.” –Ted Andrews

As a three-time cancer survivor who was recovering from the most difficult surgery this past pandemic year, these insights were particularly valuable to me. I truly am entering a new phase of my life which I need to reinvent in order to live more gently with the planet, with others, and with myself. I have grown more introverted and introspective during this time. I want to reclaim my voice as a writer, teacher, scholar, and ritual leader. As the director of the Center for the Sacred Feminine in Tucson for 26 years, it is time to transform my role, my teaching style, and my ways of interacting with a sisterhood I have nurtured for over a quarter of a century. It is also time to harvest the fruits and gifts of my sacred vocation and to write more about them.

These past 5 years have been the most challenging of my life: leaving the University of Arizona after 33 years of teaching writing to underserved populations; losing my best friend, soul sister, and Center retreat partner to cancer over a 6 month period; losing my mother after leaving my job to care for her; losing a dear mentor to dementia; losing my cat to kidney disease; feeling profoundly these dark depths as I watched my country slide toward fascism and pure evil, with everyday inhumanity displayed so prominently and relentlessly.

In the midst of such horror, I found it difficult to connect with the goddess or the sacred in my usual comforting ways, especially prayer. I decided to use my energy to make my yard into more of a creative sanctuary, honing my dear friend Sue’s Faery garden, creating a Mermaid garden around an area dedicated to my mother, and lighting up every sacred space (and there are many) to be able to enjoy my magical yard at night and meet there with my circle of women outdoors when safe.

The symbology of the deer told me that I was in touch with a great and powerful mystery. It affirmed my connection to spirit, which was in need of rejuvenation. The buck supported me in believing in my intuition and my greater relation to all that is. He also showed me that I needed to combine strength with gentleness and softness, especially in my relationship with myself and those I am closest to. In a world out of control, I felt a lot of rage and anger as well as profound sorrow and loss, especially of the natural world.

Yet here was the buck, dazzling, resplendent, standing in front of me, warmed by the rays of the sun, showing otherwise. As Anne Cameron says, “the evidence is in our eyes for all the world to see, the evidence of magic. In a world full of magic injustice cannot prevail, and this world is full of magic, magic is everywhere.” And magic was on my street! Camino Miraflores means “road of the beautiful flowers,” which I have always found amusing because the road is full of saguaro and cactus, a desert landscape with few flowers. Then I remembered that in many Native traditions, deer is the most sacred of animals. At the Yaqui Easter celebration, which I have attended many times, the deer dancer represents this totem and is a messenger from the flower world, the enchanted world of nature. At the end of the ritual, flowers are thrown by the community at those who represent the forces of evil, to overcome them. For me, the buck at Miraflores had a deeper meaning, appearing just when he did, near the start of the new year. He was telling me that we would thrive by following the ways of peace, strength, and beauty; we would be subdued, like I was, by splendor. All would be well.

Right after encountering the deer, I started remembering lines from a favorite Solstice poem that I shared for years in packets for the Center for the Sacred Feminine, and read at the close of Winter Solstice rituals::

The Buck at Noontime

Magic is something

you do not recognize

when it happens,

something that



That is what you said,



At dawn, at dusk,

across the nettles and willows,

under the sighing pines,

we would see roe deer, fallow deer,

staring at us from the tall

dying grass -- sometimes

a single doe, sometimes

two or three, once

a herd of seven

but never before

at midday

at the crossroad

a single buck

holding us with steady gaze

until you said

If I move will he run?

You danced in front of him

I watched him watching you.

You called and sang.

He never moved.

In the long space

between us, the long time

between us, something passed.

What passed is the stuff

of legend. I could tell

it that way. I could say:

Two children, lost in

the forest and crying

for home, were saved by

an angel of light; or,

animals called to twins

in a stone town, called

them by secret names

into a magic forest; or

a man and woman

sought initiation into

the languages of winds

and birdsong;

these are stories,

true stories

told by those

who saw something,

something ordinary

--a buck

at noontime

at the crossroad --

and knew magic,

and had no words for it

for all the stories

say the same thing,

all the stories tell us

how magic speaks:

in a voice so common,

so familiar, that we

create prayers and myths

to capture and belie its

sacred ordinariness.

Something happened to us:

We saw a buck

at noontime

at the crossroads,

we saw, at an ordinary

crossroads, the horned

god of the forest,

in blazing noon sun

In the dreamtime

of the day,

an ordinary road

and an antlered deer.

Something happened to us

in that ordinary moment.

Oh! You have broken

your perfect silence,

you have spoken

in movement and stasis,

horned god of life’s changes;

you have shown us

the resurrection of death,

horned god of time’s passages;

you have shown us the way,

guardian of crossroads,

angel of blue flowers,

height of the sun’s blaze.

Everything we feel is true.

Every day is magic.

Everything we feel is true.


We remember.


–from Seasons of the Witch

Blessed be the Ray buck at Miraflores.

I re-member. Yes. Always.

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