The Deer Skull

2013-05-14_11-40-10_949I walked out onto the deck this morning and stepped on something hard: a fragment of bone. I picked it up, and wondered how it gotten there, and what animal it had come from. Then I realized that it was a piece of a deer cheekbone—the remnant of the deer skull, complete with antlers, that had resided out there on the deck for many months. Only a couple of fragments and one tooth remained.

Oh no! What had happened? That skull was dry and old, with nothing left on it—not even hair. Why would an animal try to eat that? It had lain in the woods for months before I found it, and everything edible was long since gone.

Then it struck me: the only creature who would be interested in such a prize would be a domestic dog. Well fed, carefree, with lots of time and energy to drag away such a prize for the sheer joy of chewing.

Immediately, I knew who the culprits were. Neighbors four doors down the street have two dogs that they “can’t” (i.e., don’t bother to) keep in their fenced yard. These dogs are frequently to be seen roaming around everyone’s yards and the common ground, or chasing cars down the street, or lying out in their front yard.

Two weeks ago, through my open office window, I heard a bunch of barking and commotion nearby. I didn’t think much of it until later in the afternoon, when I went out the front door to get the mail and discovered that the commotion had been those two dogs (by then lying peacefully, innocently, back in their front yard) excavating a huge hole under my front porch. I still haven’t had the time to fill it all back in.

I don’t like to be a nasty neighbor, or complain a lot, but I am pretty annoyed about the hole under my porch, and this morning, after I figured out what had happened to the deer skull, I got REALLY annoyed. I wanted that skull! What for? I don’t know. It had been out there for months, and I hadn’t figured out what to do with it yet. But it was MINE!

I sat down to do what I’d come outside to do: meditate on the deck, while the air was still cool and pleasant. Surprisingly, I was able to let go of the incidents without too much difficulty.

After my meditation, I was aware of another image that had appeared to me: a lovely piece of fabric being fashioned into a corset. What on earth does a corset have to do with a chewed deer skull? Clearly, there was a connection. These things are not random.

Hmmm…. Loss of the deer skull: Deer, symbolically, is an Ally of mine, and so the disappearance of the skull was upsetting. My first response was to see the loss as a punishment. “You didn’t do anything with this talisman, so clearly, you didn’t value it. If you don’t value it, you don’t deserve it, so it’s gone now.”

Anger: usually something that clings obsessively to my awareness, forcing my thoughts into its pattern. Anger channels the flow of energy in a non-creative way, if it’s allowed to go on and on. But it feels so good, so righteous, to be angry!

And corsets: They’re designed to restrict and force a woman’s body into a particular shape. No matter how lovely they look, that is what they do.

But with some further thought, I arrived at a different interpretation of the event, and a sense of how it all fits together. “Here’s information from this event. Now you may choose what to do with it.” I can focus on the loss and the anger: I envision myself storming down the street, pounding on the neighbors’ door….

That’s not really useful; nor is guilt. A better response, I think, is to see this as another instance of how the patterns of our behavior function like a corset does: they mold and restrict us to the status quo, and don’t allow us to grow and change.

So I think that’s the information present in this event. After all, I have no need for the skull itself, or the antlers. Instead, I now have this opportunity to choose a different, less habitual way of responding. I also have this one remaining tooth as a talisman to keep the learning fresh.

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