Oftentimes, messages come with animals, either live or in spirit realm. If this happens to you, you should study the meaning of this animal, as it may well become your personal totem or power animal. Bear in mind, too, that your animal totem might be a real surprise. You may be a 300-pound linebacker, and your totem might be a mouse. Remember, the totem picks you; you don’t pick the totem.


I was surprised when my spirit animal totem first came to me. For whatever reason, I thought I was not a nature girl. I did a personal vision quest, and while a trip to an exotic place such as the Amazon jungle was not in my immediate plans, I felt I could definitely journey to the shore and make it a spiritual trek. Between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, there is a wonderful national park by the Pacific Ocean called Big Basin. Big Basin features a waterfall with a very large creek that flows down a mountain directly into the ocean. For sheer physical beauty and drama, Big Basin is nearly unmatched. The waterfall is a “word of mouth” phenomenon that only occurs after the rainy season. If you go at any other time, the waterfall is dry and, for all intents and purposes, simply does not exist. I decided that, for my purposes, I could experience a little of the magic Terrence wrote about.


I set off on the seven-mile journey up the mountain to find Berry Creek Falls. Because I was hit by a drunk driver some years back and suffered physical trauma, I am not a hiker. But I was extremely motivated to try, and the beauty of the spring day I had selected for my vision quest was sheer joy to behold. Through flowering spring trees, the singing brook, and a lush green landscape, I felt like I had rediscovered Eden all by myself. After about five miles, my ankle, which had been smashed in the accident, was begging me for a respite. I moved down the bank of the big creek and dipped my throbbing leg into the cool water. It felt so good, and I was so hot and hungry, that it seemed absolutely essential that I plunge into the creek. I think I lay in the water for at least two hours, and I felt an enormous sense of release there. I wept, letting go of deep emotions as the water flowed around me. Lichen, moss, leaves, and some small sticks caught in my hair, but these only added to my sense that I was getting closer to nature. I was in my element and very glad of it.


Eventually, I became aware of the world outside my mossy mermaid creek bed. It was getting late and, lacking flashlight or fire, I could either wash out to sea or return to the world and my life. Refreshed, a little more lucid, and a lot hungrier, but with no distinct vision, it seemed that it was going to take another trip for me to get any real enlightenment.


I started the journey of several miles down the incline, deep in thought. After a few minutes I noticed that I was not the only one walking in the woods. I stopped, and the other footsteps stopped, too. I started and the other footsteps started again. The steps were very close. It seemed that someone or something was walking just off to my left, practically beside me. I started to get frightened; being followed was not in my vision quest plans!


Carefully and quietly, I turned to look in the dimming light. To my utter amazement, there was a young female deer walking beside me. We looked at each other, and I am not sure who was more frightened. We walked together and soon grew fairly comfortable with each other’s presence. I touched her and she didn’t flinch or run away. This was miraculous. I marveled that she remained at my side. I grew up in West Virginia, where deer simply don’t “hang out” with humans. I came to realize that this doe was my animal totem. She picked me, and definitely let me know that she was there for me, escorting me down the mountain from my vision quest. At the end of the grassy hill, before it became sand and beach, she turned, and with a long gaze gave me her goodbye. I was practically shaking with excitement and an indescribable bursting feeling inside.


All those Native American teachings I had heard were completely real and true. Never again did I doubt the veracity of vision and spirit from the elders.


The realm of the spirit is there. It’s just waiting for you to walk in.