Wednesday, December 31, 2014

on this year's dying day

on this year's dying day
a yearling doe laid down in the woods
on three legs to die

I'm scanning the trail closely, uneven with frozen muddy tracks strewn with trip sticks. Easy to turn an ankle. Everywhere, an earthy palette of browns and grays. Suddenly, a patch of white. I squat to examine what looks like a mesh of white plastic fibers. But when I touch them, I realize it's deer fur.

Looking up I finally see, just an arm's length away, a dead deer, a small yearling doe. She's lying on her side, her neck curled around a small bush, three legs stretched out as if she's running. But she's missing her right hind leg, the bare hip bone protrudes from her fur.

          Fur everywhere. Some animal has been at work on the hind end of the corpse. Hard to know the cause of death. Perhaps she got hit by a car on the nearby highway and managed to hobble into the woods to die. Or maybe this small one got hamstrung and brought down by coyotes.
          The words of an old Shapenote song come to me: "And am I born to die, to lay my body down." Certainly birth is a death sentence. But life is a rare opportunity to experience this material world, in all its messiness and glory. Then when it's time, the body wants to go back to the earth from where it came, while the spirit, well, the spirit doesn't go anywhere. It's where it's always been and always will be, just no longer attached to the physical body.
          This little one didn't live long in the world, but she must have learned a lot, enough to move on. So I leave her flesh to be consumed by wild animals until only her bones are left to lie among the decaying leaves and fallen trees. Then I too move on down the trail.

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