If you’re following my lunar calendar observance, today, on the full moon in my time zone, perhaps tomorrow in yours, it’s time to read another poem from Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons. October’s full moon is the Hunter’s Moon, and the poem is Hunter’s Moon—Eating the Bear.
This strikes me as a very animistic poem, full of the reverence a hunter should feel for her prey. It acknowledges and expresses the thankfulness one ought to express to the animals whose lives sustain our own. The poem’s subject seems a bit odd to me, personally, as I’ve never eaten bear meat. Many do, and it’s supposed to be good, I’ve just never had the opportunity. When I think of hunted meat, my thoughts run more toward deer, moose, and grouse.
Whatever the protein source, I confess taking an animistic attitude toward it. This extends to the fish, crab, and plants that we eat as well, and to the wood we cut for firewood and other needs. While my Christian forefathers would frown, I sincerely feel that an attitude of thankfulness and reverence prevents me from wasting the resource, or taking it for granted. Giving thanks to God should be good enough, they would argue, but that’s not quite the same thing, is it? No matter who you acknowledge for providing the resource, it is the resource itself that dies, and probably suffers, so that I may live. This is not worship in the standard (i.e. Western) sense. Call if mindfulness. The things we use sustain us, and we need to sustain them in our own self-interest, if for no other reason.
This is a non-hunting moon for me, having missed the application period for the current subsistence moose hunt. I have to admit that many days lately I’ve looked outside and breathed a sigh of relief that I am not compelled to hunt this year. This is really why hunting is at the bottom of our list of subsistence activities. Besides being the most time- and labor-intensive, and dangerous way of food gathering, the level of regulation makes it difficult. Narrow windows in which hunting is allowed, restrictions on size, sex, antler configuration, and everything else has its good reasons, but it discourages me. Better to hunt mushrooms, an activity under the appropriate moon for which the restrictions are imposed by Nature, rather than mankind.