October 19, 2017
Tonight the moon, misty and wistful shines bright enough to cast shadows. The coolness of an impending winter finds my exposed skin, I shiver walking in pants to short and sleeves not long enough. Ben, my son arrived home this evening with a deer heart and liver, special offerings for his sweetheart Alexa, who is wanting to rid herself of anemia and low iron. The heart and liver lay in the pan perfectly beautiful only a few hours from aliveness. Ben had carefully carved them from a white tail deer, offering the rest of the animal to the local elders.
The harvest moon, or thanksgiving moon was always a time of hunting in my childhood. Dad would head out early on weekend mornings and be back before lunch with deer laying in the bed of the pickup truck. My Mom would help me put on my special white rain coat and rubber boots and I would help Dad skin the deer after he had hung them by their feet in the shed.
Dad would sharpen a special knife for me and carefully show me how to cut the fascia to release the skin. I would peer inside the deer’s body cavity from atop the little ladder I stood on and each organ and bone was touched and called by name. Once the bladder had been carefully cut out and placed aside, the liver was extracted, checked for healthiness and the heart and sometimes the kidneys were carefully placed in a metal bowl. Dad would then, with some ceremony deliver this bowl of offal to my mother. My Dad, the hunter bringing home life giving food to his sweetheart while caring for his family.
Dad would also dissect the innards of the deer. He would check the stomach for the deer’s last meal and then explain the significance of what that food was for the deer. He would check the musculature and the fat explaining what we would be eating. When it came time to butcher the carcass, we would sharpen a new set of knives, carefully running them against the stone, letting Dad test the sharpness for easy cutting.
Dad would then decide how many roasts, steaks, chops, what was hamburger and then let me cut into the meat following the grain and flow of the animal. Mother would have the freezer paper ready. She pulled it from the big roll and carefully ripped it along the sharp metal serrated edge, making a perfect square. Steaks were counted and carefully wrapped with wax paper between each one. Each package was wrapped with string and I would get to put my finger in just the right place for the knot to tighten and hold perfectly. When I learned to write I was able to write with an ink marker on the outside, 7 steaks 1963.
The harvest moon continues to inspire my family. I chose to spend my life with a vegetarian man, so my deer skinning skills have lay dormant for most of my life. The careful, conscious way that my father provided for us continues to reverberate through the family though. Today I make plum jam, roast tomatoes, store squash, onion, potatoes and prepare wine from the grapes and plums. Rosemary is drying, pumpkins are ready for pies, halloween and muffins. We are ready for the winter.
Being ready for winter means there is more time for knitting. I am doing just that.
Kathleen & The Purls