Scavenger’s Communion

deerAki and I are out to wrack more seaweed. She wanders near the car while I walk over to the top of a low bluff to check a pocket beach. A cabal of ravens scatters into the air when I reach the bluff edge. Still hunkered on the beach, an immature bald eagle doubles its apparent size by forming parenthesis with expanded wings. I have time to notice how his umber body is spattered with white feathers before he flies to roost in a nearby Spruce. The birds have left behind a deer carcass.

eagle 1The severed deer head, without antlers or eyes rests on the hind withers. Birds have pealed back the thick brown coat to expose the intact bone structure of the back, ribs, and neck. The fur lies like a rumpled blanket over the deer’s hindquarters. Scavengers have consumed the internal organs and picked the uncovered bones clean of most of their meat.

The bones have a durable beauty, especially the symmetrical curving ribs and long bend of the neck. I try not to acknowledge how human the rib cage looks from the side. Instead I remember watching a deer swim toward this beach followed by a sea lion. The deer made the beach just before the sea lion and stood panting, head bent low between the kayaks we were about to launch. Why did I find you now, when I just finished reading the deer-hunting essay from Nelson’s The Island Within? Seeing deer hunting as an offering, not a taking, Nelson showed nothing but respect when cleaning the deer that have given itself to him. Unless it died of natural causes, I fear that who ever shot this deer wasted most of the meat.

stormThe eagle and ravens complain about our presence at their precious find. They will return to their picking as soon as we leave, gently pushing back the blanket of fur to expose more and more flesh, devouring the exposed until only scavengers with smaller tools will be able to continue the harvest. It is this scavenger’s communion that will salvage meaning from the deer’s death.

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