I have a confession to make. I have been dreading winter since the last dreamy, verdant weeks of summer. But as summer turned to autumn and then autumn to winter, I have found myself befriending the cold, quiet days and the long, dark nights. The air feels crisp and invigorating on my face during my contemplative wanderings through the woods. There is a stillness that fills the forest, which I find peaceful and soothing, and the early nightfall gives me permission to rest and relax.
Winter seems to have arrived well before solstice this year, and we’ve been enjoying a tranquil frosted landscape here in western Massachusetts. By the time solstice rolled around, I found myself ready – and perhaps even slightly eager – to embrace the ups and downs of the season. My attitude about winter surprised me, given the level of dread and loathing I previously felt. However, there is wisdom in nature – even the parts we don’t favor – and that feels too precious a gift to squander.
On the first day of winter, I saw a truck strike a wild turkey while I was on my way to work. It tottered across the road while the traffic kept moving. I slowed to a stop on the side of the road where the turkey piteously hobbled to the shoulder and collapsed face down into a snow bank.
I grabbed a blanket from my car and slowly approached the turkey, arms outstretched, and gently wrapped it up and put it in my car. My initial thought was that I would contact a wildlife rehabber, but my first glance at the turkey told me that it wasn’t likely to survive. I didn’t see any blood, but I could see the life slipping away from its limp body.
I called work to say I was running late, then brought the turkey back home. By then I could see that its spirit had left. I carried the warm, lifeless body inside and placed it on the kitchen floor. I have never seen a turkey up close like that before, and I was struck by how beautiful it was. It was magnificent, with gleaming iridescent feathers. They felt impossibly soft and thick as I ran my hands through them. The wings were wide and striped with a remarkably intricate pattern. How could such an impressive and beautiful animal exist right here in New England?
I felt confused as mix of sorrow, anger, and awe coursed through me. How could someone just hit an incredible creature like this and not stop or seem to care?
I decided to accept this sad event as a gift. I sat next to the beautiful bird with loving admiration, seeking to honor it.
While I’ve never hunted or farmed, I do eat meat, and I realized that this gift was a opportunity for me to connect with the land in a new way. And with Christmas right around the corner, I knew this turkey would go to good use.
I plucked and dressed the turkey on tarp in the kitchen, as Rob read instructions to me (thank goodness for the internet!). It was an unforgettable experience – one that gave me a newfound respect for our animal brethren and for the lives that they give to us so that we may have sustenance. I also gained a newfound respect for myself as I took responsibility for cleaning and preparing an animal to eat. Having had no prior experience with that, I wasn’t sure it was something I could do, but it connected me to nature in a way that I have never experienced before.
Today is Christmas eve, and a magical layer of ice and snow drapes the trees like fine crystal. As I glance out the window, I can see juncos hopping from the rooftop to a branch and then back again. Later today, I will be roasting the turkey and, as always, I will be giving thanks for the sacredness of life and the miraculous wisdom and divine harmony of Nature.
Wishing you all a safe and Merry Christmas.