Jaw Bone of The Deer

The Deer’s Jaw Bone

I first saw the deer’s body in the beginning of winter, before the snow.

It was whole then, and I wondered that the coyote hadn’t found it yet.  I wasn’t exactly sure where it was in the woods, so I didn’t see it regularly.  But the next time I came upon it, the body was starting to decay and was too tempting for the dogs to be around, so we moved on quickly.

Then the snow came, and I didn’t see it again, till yesterday.

When I saw the patch of white ground from the distance, the first thing that came to mind was frost.  But even though the dew was icy and there were still patches of deep snow in certain places,  I hadn’t seen any  frost on our walk so far.

I could see that the big lopsided circle of white was bigger than me, if I were to lie down in it, by at least two feet.  As I got closer, I could also see that the white wasn’t frost, but fur.

A thin, even layer of white fur covering the forest floor.

Maybe the brown fur of the deer blended into the leaves and mud, but where ever it was, it didn’t dilute the stark carpet of white that almost glowed compared to the earth around it,  beckoning me to it.

I stood on the edge of the lopsided circle, peering in.  A threshold that felt too holy to cross.

This was what was left of the deer.

As I looked I spotted the half-eaten skull.  The coyote and other animals (maybe the fisher Fate halfheartedly chased a few weeks ago) must have dragged the other bones away to eat.   But, for some reason, they left the skull.

Then I saw the bottom of the jaw.  The teeth still in place, strands of fur and dark wet leaves stuck to it.  There was one more bone that was flat and shaped like a paddle,  the edge of it gnawed by a small animal.

There was also coyote scat. Marking the story with its presence.

I stepped onto the white fur and gathered the bones, placing them in the center of the circle, like puzzle pieces coming together.

At frist I didn’t want to touch the bottom jaw.

I found the teeth disturbing, all still in place, looking healthy and useful.    It was as if it’s teeth were the deer’s identity.   It was no longer just another deer to me.   The teeth made me see the deer as an individual being.

I left the circle and started for home, but something pulled me back.

I wasn’t sure why, but I wanted the jaw bone.

I think I took it because I didn’t want to be afraid of it. Somehow leaving it with the other bones, didn’t feel right.

The jaw opened and closed on a hinge at the tip of the front teeth. I folded it up like a book, clutched it in my fist and carried it home.

It felt like it belonged to me, as a witness and something to remember the deer by.

Like the coyote, I was claiming my part in the story.





4 thoughts on “Jaw Bone of The Deer

  1. Okeeffe loved skulls and as you know made them part of her art.

    Something in the making with this jaw bone.


    1. Yes, Lynn, I thought of one photo of Okeeffe carrying a buffalo skull with much of the skin decaying off of it. It is definitely an inspiration.

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