Skin Tells a Story

This year I have taken on the task of learning how to scrap the hair and flesh from deer and elk hides.  It is a labor of rebirth that completes my hunting cycle down to my bones. The scraping process takes a hide and turns it into rawhide, with rawhide I make rattles and drums.  For me, this has brought an honor to the animal in a way I couldn't have imagined.  Life is a cycle of life, death, rebirth.  My hunting now feels like an equal to the life cycle and it fills my heart with humility.

The physical work to scrape a hide with hand tools is purifying and meditative.  It's as though the sweat and back ache is telling the animal's sacrifice of life "I'm giving of my body as you have given of yours".  This awareness boiled up from inside me as I was scraping the flesh, and I felt a connection to life so strong I cried.  Isn't it interesting to connect to life in a remnant of death?  Doesn't it make sense to honor the life given to you?  Whether that is in death or in living, whether that is your life or the life of an animal?

The day I was working with that hide, I felt a crack in the time-space continuum.  For hours that felt like minutes the skin of the deer told me a story.  The inside of the hide told me how well fed he was from all the fat attached to the flesh.  I found a layer of meat underneath some fat that I usually don't see in deer because they aren't usually this fat.  This surprise layer of muscle told me that he had migrated well and had built extra muscle to accommodate the long distances he had traveled.

The outside of the hide carried scars that held a novel.  One scar was hefty in width and quite long.  It told me of how this wound was made by his body moving under a sharp and stable object.  It was a wound of youthful distraction.  A small, round scar recanted a rut season with hormones running high and the game of love as painful, but worth it. The part of the hide that would have covered the shoulder carried a series of scratches that were equal in distance and length.  The story here is one of battle, of survival, of the freedom in being wild.

Later that day, after a shower, I was enjoying the exhaustion of my work. From my deck, you can see my back yard and the huge undeveloped lot beyond.  It is rich with grass, broom, and blackberries.  Along comes the mama deer and her fawn that frequent this lot for food.  The animation of her hide and fur was a beautiful contrast to the hide I had so deeply connected with just hours before.  It reminded me of the cliche "life goes on", which made me chuckle with a snarky "duh".  The fawn was bounding in play, and learning through observation of its mother, how to be a deer.  Their communication was silent and profound.

I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and joy at the deer/human communication I had the honor of having that day.  So filled was I that I felt outside of my skin and bigger than this Earth.  And from that perspective I saw my hide no different than the deer's hide.   It is made up of the same proteins, the same molecules. The fat and muscle I took off is made up of the same chains and acids.  My life is no more special or sacred as the deer's. We are equal in life, death, rebirth, and I excitedly share this planet with them.

What's under your skin?  What stories will your hide tell?  How well do you carry your scars?  Do you see them as survival, or trauma?  Think of your soul as having a skin and ask these same questions about your soul skin.  Write, observe and embrace your answers...they are your story.  And life goes on.

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