Though I had known it intellectually on some level that we are everything we eat, finding a dead rabbit on the side of the road entirely changed the way I view life and death.
I picked up its warm body, my heart pounding, hands shaking, feeling the terror it must have felt in its last moments. I had never processed an animal before. The thought of taking a life was a difficult one. But here was a life offered to me in my hands and I was on the way to my nature connection program, where I could ask my mentor for help.
I lay it on some fir branches and ran my fingers through its soft fur before cutting through its skin with my knife. My skin prickled and my belly sank feeling how easily skin parts beneath a blade. I could crack the rabbits leg bones with my hands. The skin peeled back easily, there was no blood except in the gash of impact on its shoulder. The smell was distinct but not unpleasant. The under skin, the softest thing my fingers have ever touched.
It lay there turned inside out. A pile of matter. I'm a pile of matter. I cut its belly. There was its warm heart, its liver and kidneys. I wondered how similar my own organs looked. I pulled out its stomach and bowels and cut off its head. Rubbing its soft ears one more time I left these pieces for other hungry mouths to find.
That night, I cooked the whole body, the bones, the liver, the muscles, the kidney, with a few potatoes and a bit of salt. I tasted it, not completely enjoying the unfamiliar taste, but feeling so much gratitude for the life that was feeding me. I didn't want to waste a single part. I wanted to share it and have others nourished by it.
Later that night I cried feeling the energy moving me and remembering the rabbit that had died a violent death. The rabbit was animating me. I could feel its strength in me, not metaphorically but literally. In this moment I realized everything we eat is our ancestor. Every time we eat, another's death is giving us life. I felt so much support from all the animals and the plants who's lives have fueled me my whole life. I suddenly felt glad I would die one day. That I could also give the biggest gift of all. That I could give life to others.
Even weeks later the rabbit continued to be my companion. When I was curled up in sadness, I cupped it’s tail in my hand to my face and the softness soaked up my tears. I salted and dried the skin, then after washing it, worked fat into the skin and sewed it into a headband. Wearing it I felt I was again overcome with its energy; alive and quick and wide eyed.