Stewing Over a Moose
When I showed a friend a picture of the last pile of white packages on my table, and said that our moose is now all wrapped and the freezer, he deadpanned that it didn’t look like a wrapped moose. Chip and the kids did most the work—trimming meat off the bone, and fat, tendons, and stringy fascia from the roasts. The weather was so nice that the bulk of the butchering was done outside, on a table made from sawhorses and a recycled sheet of plywood in the driveway and truck tailgates.
My daughters and sons-in-law wanted to help, so it was back to the future for me, I spent most of the time on childcare duty with four little girls running around the yard. Lunch, stories, naps, and snacks. I like it that they understand about where food comes from, and don’t mind the meat cutting and want to help, too. (Caroline did ask Chip to remove the moose ear from the playhouse. It looked really big and odd there, alone like that. One of the dogs must have stolen it.)
A friend came by to collect bones for broth. Chip cut some into pot-sized pieces with a saws-all and gave them to her with a smile. She’s had a hard month with an illness in the family. We were grateful to comfort her, and nothing is as fundamental as a nourishing broth from these strong bones. She said later that it helped her sleep through a whole night. I know a little about those kinds of nights.
The plywood we butchered the moose on used to be a wheelchair ramp. It is painted with hearts, flowers, chickens, and “we love you” and “welcome home.” It greeted me when I returned from a nursing home in Seattle with a broken pelvis. It was our front “step” then. A big part of my recovery was accepting the kindness of friends, family, and strangers—when all I wanted to do was be normal and not reminded of my worries which were overwhelming, especially after dark. Would I ever sleep soundly again or wake without panic sometime in the night, after a dream I couldn’t recall? Would I get a blood clot and die? Would I be able to play with grandchildren? Or hike or ride a bike or go hunting again? Another part of my anxiety was this sudden, and for me anyway, shocking notion that everything can change in an instant and it’s not fair. Nothing is for sure.
Of course the lesson there is to live as kindly and joyfully as possible in each moment. That’s so much easier said than done. (Especially after the new normal returns.) And honestly, that whole “present” thing is crazy-making. I mean, you have got to think beyond the moment to put a moose in your freezer. But I do know that I understand so much more about what makes a good life than I did before I almost lost mine, and the secret to it is love in all it's forms. (This too is so much easier said than done.) At least everyday is another chance to love better. (I hope this isn’t too philosophical, but I think it’s proper that hunting and butchering triggers these meaning of-it-all thoughts, don’t you?)
I can already hear Chip saying, “You think to much. I just hate to waste a good piece of plywood.” Which is living “in the moment” isn’t it? Thank goodness it’s just an old piece of plywood now with some colorful graffiti on it, and that life, does in fact go on. One wonderful, ordinary, extraordinary moment at a time.