|Sketch on Flickr|
A coming of age tale, Part II
The wind was out of the north west on opening day, surging straight out of Canada as if to warn a deep and dark winter was coming fast. The tree Avery was strapped to swayed back and forth in the cold, in the dark. His tree stand was roped into a gnarly bunch of hard maples, 15 feet off the ground, sitting atop a ridge of mixed northern forest which was criss-crossed by manmade and deer-made trails alike.
“Looks like a highway of rutted up bucks through here, all these scrapes and rubs. Look at this one,” Hurly, his uncle’s stogie smoking friend had told them when he’d led the boy and his uncle out scouting the area two weeks prior. Indeed, there was plenty of deer sign in the spot - fresh tracks, scrapes on the ground every 15 yards, and rubs that shredded three inch poplars down to twigs.
Uncle Amos was hunting the opener nearby, only 150 yards through the woods on the other end of the ridge. Hurly was somewhere far to the west of where they were, or perhaps still in bed up at the hunting shack. Here in his stand though, in the silence of this frozen, pre-dawn day in late November, Avery sat alone, with only his thoughts to occupy him. In fact those stories he played out in his head were the best defense he had against the cold. Sure, he was bundled up from head to toe in eight layers of wool and fleece, tucked into a sleeping bag, with a wool blanket about his shoulders, a thick wool sock pinned around his neck as a scarf, and wearing a beaver fur hat on his head, but the freezing gusts of wind on his back were relentless, and thoughts, any thoughts, were a good distraction.
I am warm enough; I will stay in this tree all day, whether I see deer or not, I will not climb out until the light begins to fade late this afternoon.
His uncle had taught him the trick - a sort of zen practice he’d learned from spending time in the military. While abroad, Amos had been part of a special operations outfit, the kind that ran missions nobody was supposed to know about. He did not speak of it much, but Avery was under the impression his uncle had spent some of those years in the far east. When he came back, the fiery persona that was common in his father’s family had been sapped from his bones, and in its place was only a phrase Amos uttered repeatedly, “This too will wash over, as waves to sand.”
“As waves to sand,” Avery recited quietly each time the wind cut through him.