Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Life's monkey wrenches...

The deer was a monkey wrench. It was a crazy episode that required us to stop what we were doing and take on something completely unexpected.

When I first considered bringing it home, I pictured leaving the animal in my garage for the weekend and then driving it up to the slaughter house on Monday morning. I pictured picking it up a few days later, neatly packaged in white paper wrappers with labels indicating what each package contained.

It didn't work out that way. When Nguyen was struggling to get the deer into his truck, a hunter happened by and offered to help. He told Nguyen that the deer would have to be gutted that very night or else the meat would go bad. At that moment, my husband, who had never done anything like it in his life, decided he was going to butcher an entire deer. In our garage. In the middle of the night.

When we were kids, things like this happened all the time. A farm is a place where monkey wrenches get thrown into your life at unexpected moments, with unpredictable results. And it is always about life and death.

The day a dog happened by and killed our entire flock of chickens for sport, my parents were up until late into the night plucking and gutting and cutting and wrapping the dead birds so we could freeze them and salvage something from what was a terrible loss.

Or the day our cow was trying to birth her calf and was struggling. My brother and I got up before dawn and went to the field with my parents. We watched my father reach into the cow's vagina up to his elbow to try and determine if the feet sticking out were hind or fore. And when a little nose appeared, we were amazed when a tongue started licking my fathers fingers as they were pulling on the calf's feet. She was born after the vet appeared and had a special chain that he looped around her feet. One great pull and out she slid.

Life on a farm was always about these little emergencies... some terrible, many wonderful. A friend drops off a baby pig. We rescue an abandoned pony. Adopt a dog that needs a home. Watch our barn cat eat an infant rabbit. Play host to a lost homing pigeon who has mistaken our barn for his home.

We always had to be open to dropping everything and adjusting to the latest monkey wrench. The disruptions were part of the rhythm.

It doesn't happen as much in suburbia or in the city. Or maybe the monkey wrenches are of a different sort. Having your water boiler blow, or getting mugged, or losing your car keys are different things altogether. There is no adventure in them. They are just a pain in the ass.

The deer was different. It was a monkey wrench on a grand scale. We haven't gotten to bed before 1 am since we brought it home. Last night, Nguyen was butchering... cutting the meat into sections based on a crude diagram I found on the internet. He laid a plastic bag over a table in the garage and went to work. I took each piece into the house and washed it in my kitchen sink. Rubbed the stray hairs off. Cleaned off the bits of coagulated blood. Dried the pieces on an old towel and wrapped them in foil and plastic bags and labeled each one. Then, when we were finished, we had a fridge stuffed with venison and sat at the dinner table and talked late into the night about Vietnam and the farm I grew up on and the simple truths of life and death and gratitude.

We are grateful for the meat. We are more grateful, though, for the experience. Our kids learned a lot this weekend. They were scared at first, then interested. They wanted to watch the meat getting cut up, so we let them get out of bed and put on coats and gloves and come out to the garage to see what we were doing. Just like when I was a kid. I told Nguyen that they would never forget the day he brought a deer home.

On Sunday, I was praying in gratitude to God, for the deer, my family, my husband. I was grateful for all He has given us. For reminding us that hiding in the monkey wrenches are the keys to grace.

As I was writing out my check for the collection, I noticed the check pattern. It is a new checking account, so this checkbook has samples of all the different kinds of checks you can get: Anne Geddes, Scooby Doo, blue safety paper.

Mine was a nature scene

with a white tail deer...

I laughed out loud.

Thank you, Beloved, for the monkey wrenches. I pray that I will always see them as the gifts they are.

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