Thursday, October 25, 2012

The breath and the trigger

A bullet, a boomstick and a choice

My eye through the scope down the barrel of a gun; watched a patch of brown, almost gray fur right behind the crosshair. I watched the creature breathe, watched his diaphragm contract and expand, pull in fresh fall air, then expunge it back through his nostrils. His ear flicked slightly and for a moment I thought he had detected me. I froze. Shortly, he was back to focusing on his travels and continuing his trot down the trail towards the tree I was sitting in.

I slowly, and ever so gently, adjusted my right shoulder to add more support to the awkward position my back was in. My left hand choked up a bit further on the rifle stock, and I leaned my right elbow against the adjacent tree trunk. He was almost in position now, about to turn broadside on the deer trail that would lead him down alongside the marsh bed. My right hand was almost frozen stiff, but I could still move my index finger just enough to disable the gun safety, then lower it to the trigger.

Ever since the whitetail had come down the trail a few minutes ago, my entire nervous system was set under siege by torrent after torrent of epinephrine and norepinephrine. The adrenaline coursed through my every fiber - surged, swelled, and tensed up every muscle in my body until it gathered to form a knot in my throat. And what was I to do with all that energy but sit still. To shoot this deer I needed to be motionless, silent, calm, cool headed, collected, and smart.

I drew in a breath and slowly let it out. Conscious of every faculty of my biology, I did my best to focus my thoughts upon peace, serenity, and the silent, softly falling November snowflakes. I felt some of the tension dissipate through the pores of my skin, as if it rose with my dwindling body heat, and seep into and out of the several layers of wool clothing intended to bundle me against the cold. I repeated one word over and over in my head --"Breathe.” Over and over I stapled the word onto every frantic notion that whipped, shuttered, and tromped around in my brain.

What if he catches wind or sight of me, and I have to shoot him on the run? Could I make that shot? Did I even want to try? Did I even want to kill this unsuspecting animal? Did I need to? Could I go through with it? Why was I hunting in the first place? Breathe.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wood-stove perspective

And a cabin full of city folk

Perspective affords us a lot. I've been reflecting upon my experiences of living in three different cities and two different states over the past seven years as a tool to help me piece together definitions for life. I have mentioned before my experience living in Minneapolis and how disconnected I became with nature, and therefore, myself.

While I was there, however, I talked to the city folk about this place. I described how easy it is to get away, to find silence, to explore the woods, canoe the rivers, fish the lakes. I tried to describe the simple yet incredible joy of physical labor, of swinging a maul over your head, of hiking cross-country, of shoveling snow by hand. When I talked about camping, I tried to describe the nuances you experience when you find the perfect spot to make camp. How when you're hiking or biking or camping in the woods (and you're well prepared), the world is your oyster and nothing seems impossible.

My stories must have had an impact after all, because a few weeks ago, a trio of them decided they wanted to make the trip to Up North Wisconsin, and that I should be their guide. This past weekend they arrived, and I had a slue of backwoods foolery in mind.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Canine companion

The dog chooses us

I remember her face the best on the day I walked into that flower shop. She was there with her sister, and the two of them turned to look at me when the bell on the door chimed, sounding a customer arrival. She was the shorter of the two, with a curious look in her eye, standing in a mischievous pose next to the violet rhododendron. Her hair was a startling, stark black, while her sister was bubbly and blonde. Oh, young love.

They certainly wasted no time with introductions. By the time I had taken two steps into the doorway, the pair of them had run towards me and were now wriggling on their backs for tummy rubs and jumping at my knees for attention. These were the cutest puppies I had ever seen.

Sure, I like to think of myself as a manly man, but my heart melted that day. As it turned out, the little black puppy was the last of the litter unspoken for; though I speculated it was due to her definable quirkiness, and I had little resources to take care of myself much less a young canine, I could hardly say no. I was like a kid in a candy store or a petting zoo. I flashed back to my days as a youngster, begging my parents to take me to the local pet store several times a week.

Three days later I went back to the flower shop, and this time I wasn't there for flowers. I took home the tiny black dog, and after some short deliberations, decided on a name. I would call her Bean. She was a munchkin, a dark little thing that jumped around on her hind legs like a kangaroo. Her bulging eyes and goofy ears (one sticking up, one hanging down) made her into an instant hit with everyone that met her. Her minuscule size and prancing gate still garner the same reaction from new human friends - "What is that?" Her constant persistence that she's a much larger animal than she really is still cracks me up, especially when she meets large breed friends like golden retrievers or husky mixes.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Paddling upstream

Stand and feel your worth

A friend and I were paddling upstream in kayaks when I started wondering what I was going to write about for this week. I looked around for ideas, and saw the same outdoor material I usually consider using. I was looking at the banks of colorful trees, the rippling Flambeau River water, the beaver houses, the cars whipping past on North River Road. I began considering how to use each as a symbol, or how I might personify one of them to draw a conclusion I couldn't yet see.

While the journey upstream was on the challenging side, the float back down was more leisurely, and left room for us to talk. We started with the latest sports scores and weather predictions, but eventually got down to brass tacks, discussed where life was heading, what work there was to be done. He admitted to me a few thoughts he was just preparing to admit aloud, things I could have told him about himself years ago. I smiled, and assured him I understood, that I was happy for him.

He was struggling a bit, grasping for straws if you will. The revelation that the current we're riding is not quite what we'd envisioned is a frightening one. When it comes down to choosing a career path in life, it's a bit more complicated than the board game. There are some very big decisions laid in front of us, and we need to be prepared to either accept the consequences or chose something else. Sometimes it's just about the angle you take something on, a different point of view that changes your opinion entirely. That's how it was for me.