Ashta Guts and Skins a Deer

Salt Spring Island.

The largest of the Gulf Islands, with a population of about 10 thousand in the summer, and 5 thousands in the winter (heresay). It’s the current home of our friends X and Geli, the destination of our first sailing trip, and one of the most beautiful places I’ve been.

A couple weeks ago Pat shot his first-ever deer on Salt Spring. After having it processed into roasts, steaks, and ground, we realized there is only a month or two of food from the animal so this past weekend, we traveled there again to kill another deer.  X and Geli let us have their house (they were out of town) for the weekend, so we got to wake up really early to be in place for the rising of the Sun. Tip-toeing through the moss-covered mountaintop, we were careful not to enter any clearing too quickly and scare off what could be standing there. After a few hours of quiet stepping, there on the right side of the path stood a buck! Frozen, looking at Patrick. The man hunched, clicked, shot.  The animal fell instantly. Relieved of silence now, we barreled toward it’s fallen body.

We both sat with our hands on his warm fur while he passed away, each of us filled with emotion. I thought about how his life had served great purpose and service and that was the definition of success. I knew he was returning to oneness from where he came before his birth on this mountaintop. I understood that the energy of his life didn’t dissolve or disappear or cease, instead it re-circulated into the place where I myself came from before my own incarnation. I understood that his life may even be recirculated again in some incarnation that would touch me in another way. Maybe he would come back as my own son? With my hands on him, I promised to thank him every time we sit down for a meal of his left-behind body, and I felt sorrow for this fleeting moment of pain at the end of his peaceful pleasant life on the mossy mountaintop.

Once his life was fully returned, we sat for a few minutes reflecting. The body now nothing more than mass. No longer an animal at all, instead, biomass contained in a furry shape.  Without life, there is no deer. Just something that yes, used to be a deer, but now is only in the shape and likeness of one.  It was now time to get to work.

We moved the likeness to a clearing, and I began to cut using the sharp blade Patrick recently purchased. It seemed these actions were instinctual. I can’t explain why it felt so familiar and natural to be slicing the soft fur up the likeness of a deers belly, but it was. Is the shooting the hard part? This part seemed so easy. Carefully, I removed all of the insides. The anatomy of this once-a-mammal fascinated me, and I found myself thanking it all the while. Intimacy of the grandest scale I’ve ever known.

We said goodbye to Salt Spring island again. The body rode home in the truck with its chest cavity propped open with a cedar log to cool the meat. Arriving home, we strung up the mass by the haunches and I got to work removing the soft furry hide. I had the same experience earlier on the mountaintop; familiar, instinctual, natural. Like I had done this before. As I pulled back on the tough softness, I remembered that I really had done it before. That previous to this life, I had probably done it many many times. The memory of these actions and feelings embedded in me from thousands of years back. I reminded myself that this precisely is the definition of instinct. In one large piece now laid out on the lawn, I looked at the hide and imagined how it will be used. I vowed that it will warm again, continuing its service. Now, strung up to hang for a couple days and rest the meat in preparation for butchering, the biomass of now nothing more than food hangs shining on our back deck.

It’s delicious deer for dinner all the time now. Endeavoring to minimize the trucked-in hormone-laden overpopulated meat-farmed cruelty in our bellies.  That energy is gruesome and not fit for consumption.