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23W402 Greenbriar Drive
Naperville, IL, 60540
United States

(630) 258-0115

Marti Beddoe is founder of Designs for Peace, a SoulCollage Facilitator,  creator of the Walking the Beauty Way Retreat, helping women learn to fully discover and express life’s beauty, meaning, and joy, in Chicago, Illinois and Naperville, Illinois.



Marti Beddoe is founder of Designs for Peace, SoulCollage® Facilitator, Circle Way Practitioner, Meditation Teacher.  She leads retreats and workshops to teach practices for sustaining lives of Meaning, Joy, and Beauty.


Marti Beddoe

“Nothing is so strong as real gentleness.
Nothing so gentle as real strength.” —St. Francis de Sales

Pax, Harold L. Beddoe, M.D., (1918—1978)


Shivering in the 23 degree air, and not wanting to wake all the sane sleeping neighbors cozy in their warm beds, I whisper, “Come in, Sheena!” to my puppy who’s standing on the back deck, ignoring my plea.  I don’t want to discourage her--she’s so good about letting me know when she needs to relieve herself.  I just want to get back into my own warm, toasty bed!  Sheena turns and gives me her “Well, would you look at that—wait, what is it anyway?” look. 

The motion detector light goes on.  I look up and, one by one, four deer appear silently gliding along like ballerinas.  They pause just beyond the back gate, no further than 36 feet away.  Their ballet has these four beings slowly turn, each deer gazing directly at me!  Time stands still, our souls sighing in recognition and solidarity.  The spell breaks when their mother lopes gracefully away.  The two does and the buck with his tiny antlers follow at a leisurely pace, heading toward their nearby woodland home we humans have invaded.

Thomas Steele photograph @

Thomas Steele photograph @

I exhale fully, picking up Sheena who’s remained oddly silent and still during this encounter.  I ask her if I’d just hallucinated this encounter.  She has no comment.  We return to a warm slumber, a profound sense of peace anointing my dreams.

The next morning, I read what Ted Andrews says about the Deer totem in his book Animal Speak:  The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small. 

“Keynote:  Gentleness & Innocence—Gentle Luring to New Adventure.”  Andrews says the “deer leads us back to the primal wisdom of old teachings…When the deer shows up in your life, it is time to be gentle with yourself and others.  A new innocence and freshness is about to be awakened or born.” 

Then I look up the symbolism of the number Four in David Fontana’s The Secret Language of Symbols: A Visual Key To Symbols And Their Meanings. 

“Four is the number of mankind (the four-limbed), four is associated with wholeness and completion—four elements, cardinal points, seasons, and ages of man.  To the Chinese, it was the number of the earth.”  Like Christianity and Judaism, Buddhism refers to many sets of Four.   


My teachers have taught me to trust my intuition, to allow it to balance and complete the highly rational, orderly part of my awareness.  Symbols are the language of the soul, the language our ancestors spoke and many indigenous people today still understand.  Symbolic messages are constantly flowing into our life.  We simply need to be open to their valuable guidance. 

With practice, I’ve learned the wisdom of consulting my intuition to help me solve life problems.  Often logic and scientific analysis can only offer incomplete solutions.  Intuition is accessed through symbols and images, and by observing the messages from the natural world.  Regular meditation enriches my attunement to intuition.  Along with meditating, making and reading SoulCollage® cards has been key to developing my ability to tune into intuition.  

I was certain the four deer brought me important messages.  All I had to do was become still and reflect on how they might be answering the questions that have been on my heart so often these days:   

How do I remain present (in a healthy way) to so many people, loved ones and complete strangers, who are in pain? 
How do I offer compassion to those I judge harshly?  
How can I live more compassionately when I feel overwhelmed myself?
How to even begin?

“Acceptance is Understanding. Understanding is Love.”—Thich Nhat Hanh

As I reflect on Thay’s comment, I realize my experience is a bit different.  First I must open my heart and try to understand without judging another.  Once there is a deeper understanding, then acceptance and love seem to flow.  From there, Compassion arises naturally, simply, easily. 

When the four deer looked me in the eyes, I was entranced by their gentle beauty and grace. I was profoundly moved by their serene, understanding and trusting gaze.  In an instant, I felt at one with the deer family.  In the silent night, it seemed like these sentient creatures were communicating eloquently. It felt like they came as messengers especially for me! I remembered how for eons my ancestors held the deer sacred, dependent on them for practical and ceremonial purposes—food and clothing as well as various tools and implements.  I understood that these deer live invisibly nearby, their home endangered by humans. It wasn’t my backyard they entered. It was their backyard we humans had invaded!  

This wordless deep knowing came swiftly and with certainty.  The stars and the waning full moon came out from the clouds.  Opening my heart and mind allowed All to become clear and undisguised.  My rational mind deferred to the wisdom brought by the Four Deer. 


The Four Deer answered my heart questions, completely and simply.  The Four Deer came to say,

“We see you, Elder One.  Become more Gentle with all of Life in your life-work of walking the Beauty Way. You are learning to live gently in harmony with all of life as it is unfolding.  Quietly witness the nature of life.  Begin by becoming gentler with yourself.  Remember, what your Lonely Outsider needed all those years! Gracefully and gently nurture those who are painfully displaced from their sense of being at ease and safe in the world.  Become ever more gentle. Fulfill your long-held dream of Belonging. By your loving, welcoming presence, others may know the truth of their belonging to all of life.” 

Try as it might, my beautiful rational mind was unable to summon this wisdom.  Thankfully, my heart received the deers’ complete message of beginning a New Adventure, to live ever more gently, simply and compassionately. 

The Practice of Symbol Watching

  1. Write down a question you need to answer, one that your rational mind just can’t solve, no matter how hard it tries. 

  2. During a week’s time, in a friendly and curious way, simply observe the symbols that are flowing all around you. 

  3. Keep notes as you pay attention to the animals, people, events, places, things, dreams, and colors that show up.

  4. What messages do they bring?

  5. A good question to ask:  “What was new today?”

  6. Record your observations and watch for patterns.

  7. At the end of the week, return to your question.  Notice that now you bring more wisdom to answering the questions.

5 A.M in the Pinewoods
By Mary Oliver

I’d seen
their hoofprints in the deep
needles and knew
they ended the long night

under the pines, walking
like two mute
and beautiful women toward
the deeper woods, so I

got up in the dark and
went there. They came
slowly down the hill
and looked at me sitting under

the blue trees, shyly
they stepped
closer and stared
from under their thick lashes and even

nibbled some damp
tassels of weeds. This
is not a poem about a dream,
though it could be.

This is a poem about the world
that is ours, or could be.
one of them—I swear it!—

would have come to my arms.
But the other
stamped sharp hoof in the
pine needles like

the tap of sanity,
and they went off together through
the trees. When I woke
I was alone,

I was thinking:
so this is how you swim inward,
so this is how you flow outward,
so this is how you pray.




For a beautiful experience of Gentleness, I invite you to explore Lori Harris’ website at Salt Creek Butterfly Farm.

May you find joy and wisdom in exploring the symbols flowing all around you.

May their messages help guide you in your Walk on the Beauty Way, today and all the days of your life.