Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ground-swatting grouse

My youngest brother, Bo, and I with two ruffed grouse

More hungry than proud

Last weekend I went grouse hunting with my father and my youngest brother. Our intent was to collect enough game for a meal, figuring we needed about four birds for four people. Now, I hadn't used a shotgun for a number of years, so when my dad gave me the option between the pump and the single shot break action, I took the old single shot out of familiarity. Well, familiarity and my brother challenged me to use it (it's an unwritten rule you can't turn down a brother challenge).

We set out on a logging road that began in an old clear-cut and wound back to a dense stand of mature hardwood. We switched off as point man around every couple corners, as those tend to be the best chance you have at catching a grouse off guard just long enough to get in a shot.

We made it all the way through the 2-year-old clear-cut without a trace of partridge, though we did see a few deer. To be honest, it was probably our constant chatter that cleared out any game in the area as we spent the first mile catching up on life. It wasn't until we flushed a bird 10 yards in front of us that we finally cut the talk and all ducked into hunting mode.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

To ask for help

No man is an island

It was many years ago now that a friend asked if I would help him and his dad put in their seasonal boat dock at their cabin by Mercer. The dock was in pieces, as it had been taken out of the water for the winter and put into storage. At the beginning of each summer the dock needed to be reassembled and put back into the water. The job wasn't all that difficult, but it was time consuming, and an extra set of hands would help things go smoothly.

Simple right? What got me was the way this friend asked me. He asked in a voice that sounded timid, like I would say no, and that asking for my help would burden me, would push me away when really I was more than happy to help. In fact, I literally couldn't wait to help as I thought this would be a good way to express my gratitude for all the hospitality he and his family had extended to me through many years. This was a confirmation that I had something worth giving back, that I could help.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in mid-June when we traveled up to the cabin and went to work. The water was cold to wade into, but the sun had some kick, and the view of the lake with all its white pines was second to none. The other two men grumbled a bit, as they had clearly gone through this process before and preferred to just get it over with. I, on the other hand, was eager to learn and happy to help; I became the cheerful one.

As we tinkered and toyed and bolted and latched I made jokes, asked questions, and kept up the pace and focus of the endeavor so that it might be enjoyable for everyone. The level of happiness increased as our progress brought us to the end of the dock, and thus, the end of the project. It was past dinnertime when we finished, and though starving, the three of us stood at the end of the sturdy structure to look out over the lake.

It's a good feeling, working together to complete something. Both of them shook my hand, said thanks, said they really appreciated the helping hand and that I was welcome back any time. For the hundredth time I told them I was more than happy to help, glad to help, glad they asked.

As the years have ticked away at my worldly existence, I've learned to call upon many people for help. If I have discerned one thing during my quarter century, it is that no man is an island. No matter how hard I push, how committed I am, how determined, single minded, or how much flame-kissed focus I summon, I cannot do all of this on my own.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Far side of the lake

Nightmare fisherman, they buy too much

Last week I went out fishing with my uncle. We planned it out ahead of time to have most of the late afternoon to be on the lake, and I had been anticipating it for a few weeks. Anticipating, because I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn some new tricks, add to my fishing repertoire, and of course, hide away in the woods.

As we zipped along county highways with boat trailer in tow, the sun bore down through the windshield at just the right temperature to keep the windows cracked, the fresh autumn air streaming in. We talked manly talk, sharing stories of hunting and camping trips, of times with old friends and relatives, of hard work and big dreams.

I would share with him my affinity for the notion of the frontier - that I would never want to feel so tied down I could never disappear. You know, pack up and move to the Yukon to build a cabin on the far side of a lake and live out my days. He nodded in reciprocation, with one of those little life advice tips you come to expect from these types of conversations, "Don't buy very much."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

On the deer trail

Like a deer trail in the woods, there are many paths
availableto us that are not always the most obvious.

Listening to your muse

Could we have asked for better Labor Day weekend weather? To close out the long weekend, I spent Monday evening sitting atop my garage roof and watching the orange and pink cumulous clouds roll in from the west, carrying the last of the daylight on their journey through the atmosphere.

In between endless pondering of life's meanings and greater lessons, I jotted down some notes as phrases and ideas came to me. This is a process I often utilize when riffing on ideas for creative projects - sitting alone outside and staring. The notes I take are not final draft caliber, but sometimes all I need is that one well-put phrase to come through all of the mediocre rambling for me to be convinced I'm onto something. It's what is known as the hook in music, or the hero in a narrative. The piece of the puzzle that everything else revolves around, and you like it because you relate to it - it makes you see yourself, and you want to hear it again.

There are a lot of different approaches for going through a creative process, but being outside is what works for me. The open air and the movement of all the living material around me helps ease my mind and feeds me energy for thought. The outdoors is my muse, and all I need to do is watch and listen carefully to be inspired.

The beauty of finding your muse is that once you've identified it, your troubles are over. It's like going home for the holidays. A warm, glowing sensation that heals from the inside out, soothes the soul, and requires nothing more of you than simply existing. It's as though you were fighting a war every single day without even knowing it before; as if you've suddenly found your calling.

Everyone has a muse, even if they haven't identified it yet. Your muse is something that makes you think outside yourself. It is a condition or experience that sets your perspective ablaze, ignites passion, generates within you the inclination to create. Your muse provides motivation, inspiration, provocation. We all have this ability, this drive within us to create because you know what, every single human being is creative.

One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing people say, "I'm not creative. I can't do things like that because I'm not a creative person."