Please note: these pictures may upset you. I hope not.
Two days ago I had a phone call from daughter. “Can you come over her. I have a present for you.” I couldn’t go right then but she brought it home that evening. Triple wrapped in plastic bags and stuffed in a brown poke. She is an O.T. and I know her patients love her. I know this because I see the notes they write and the gifts they bring. I watch her tear up telling me about a patient who walked. Not only walked, but walked across a stage to accept a graduation diploma when no one thought she would ever walk again.
But the brown poke. Held a freshly skinned deer hide. For me. From a patient of hers. A deer hide and rack. I have skinned and dried timber rattlers. Picked up an owl off a Texas highway and carried it to GA packed in salt. I have stopped on the road to remove a hawk–a hawk whose wing I carried with me for years. I have collected antlers from the woods in WV. I’ve even sold a few if truth be told. And one year our dogs carried home a coyote pelt. But it was too far gone to do anything with.
But I’ve never dressed out a deer skin. Today is the eve of winter solstice. The turning point. And spirit of deer sought me out. That’s what it feels like. I am honored. And almost clueless–feeling the huge responsibility of caretaking. The honoring of it–the blessings over–the offering of cornmeal–that I know, but I didn’t think I knew anything else. Googled. Skin can be immediately tanned, or cured and tanned later. I’m choosing the latter option.
So this morning before the sun came up, I spread the skin on the basement floor. Such a light spirit arose from it. The skin was still in need of scraping but areas of it that were clear of fascia and fat shone with a silver brillance. It glowed in fact. I don’t have a buck knife or a draw knife or anything close to what I needed so I grabbed a hacksaw and started scraping. And once I got into it, it seemed like something I had done before. Many times. Removed fat. Removed fascia. It was slow going. At first I wore gloves but they got in my way so I ended up just diving into the pelt, barehanded. I rubbed in salt. Lots of salt.
Then, what to do with the scraped remains. Could not put in the garbage. Remembered that Sunday evening I will be going to a day-after solstice celebration. We will be burying a gift of many things into Mother Earth. This is what I will give to the earth.
Today I’m going to sit with the spirit of deer. Hawk I understand and am familiar with. But this is new to me–deer is new to me–and what’s coming through right now is a sense of gentling.