Monday, March 9, 2020

Little rituals for a baby deer

We love these animals so much, and some of these pictures might be unsettling, so please proceed after asking your intuition if this is suitable for you.   A friend called to say a baby deer was found dead in an old barn--would I be able to use it, perhaps for a drum skin?

When I first come upon a dead animal I make a small, significant ceremony that I can tell you about but cannot photograph.  I understand that whenever and animal or bird dies, its last wish is for a drink of water.  So I offer the baby deer a drink of water, slowly poured along the edges of its still mouth. I then sprinkle some tobacco on its ears, eyes, nose and mouth, so the Plant Chief of this place will ease any last painful or frightening sound, sight, smell or taste.   If I photograph this I am holding onto a part of that gift for myself, when it belongs entirely to the baby deer, so I never take pictures of rituals of respect.

I next pull the deer up by its hind legs into the supports of the carport and begin to "knuckle" off the hide, alternating  my pulling of the skin with drawing a sharp knife carefully between the skin and the muscle along a layer of fine membrane.

I keep working the hide down until cutting around the forelegs and neck are the final steps.

This little deer may have been ill, or malnourished, as its coat is only healthy looking only along the spine, and dry, short and rough to the touch on the sides.

The resulting membrane looks thinner than tissue paper and will be almost transparent when made into a small frame drum.  I imagine the voice will be as multi-layered as the colours and patterns that shine and weave though the surface.

I think the final ritual for the dead baby deer is as significant as the gifts of water and tobacco. But this time it is the wild creatures of nature that will receive the feast.

And this part of what I do needs a helper.  Plus a boat is good to move the deer"s body far away from people's homes so wild animals are not attracted into a unsafe situation. 

The baby deer is laid with prayers of gratitude in the warm sun on a beautiful rocky island.   Raven and several eagles are already turning their attention to us from trees along the jagged shore of Cortes Island.  Their many visits to the deer will help them recover from winter's challenge, so they become strong for the mating and nesting season ahead.

I feel sad that the little deer did not know springtime abundance--after the cold rain of winter--in this beautiful place, but I also know that everything lives because something dies.