My greyest day happened on my last hunting trip about 10 or 15 miles NW of Fox Creek. It’s all bush and muskeg out that way. I stopped my quad in a stand of birch just like this (those may be poplars… but whatever). It was a dreary overcast day and snowing big fat, wet flakes. The silence was almost absolute, the only noise came from a big cow moose browsing on the shrubs about 60 yards away. I sat on the quad, looking at that moose for a time. My back was on fire from a day on the ATV scouting out the lay of the land. I was frozen as well. I didn’t know it at the time, but my thyroid had decided to stop producing the hormone that the human body uses to regulate its temperature and metabolism. I watched the moose for a time, thinking about the work and bother of dressing and quartering it and packing it out. It would be dark soon.
We were beside a small pothole of a lake that hadn’t frozen over yet. A pair of swans floated out there on the water, possibly the last ones in the province? The migration had been over for weeks. I had never before experienced such a profound sense of isolation and silence. I realized with a start that I didn’t belong here anymore. I used to live and die for the fall hunting season, the campfire and booze and tents… but now? I had aches and pains, and found myself bored. I used to sling up and practice making good hits at 300 yards… and here was a goofy, dopey swamp donkey at 60 yards, offering a perfect shot I could make in my sleep! None of it felt right. But as a kid I used to dream of being in a spot just like this. I pulled out a cigar and lit up, wondering if the moose would stick around… but she just kept cropping the shrubs. That was the other thing - like an idiot, I had started smoking again. Addicts can tell you all about savouring that smoke in special places, or during special occasions with special folks. I was just feeding a habit and would have to quit. Again. The moose started moving away browse more succulent shrubs. If I was going to shoot, I told myself… now would be a darned good time to do it. But I just sat there on the ATV, smoking a cigar I didn’t really want, in a place that no longer held any real appeal to me… and at length the moose was gone. I could hear her crunching and chewing out there… but a shot would be impossible. I wasn’t overly broken up about it. Kinda relieved, actually…
The swans on the lake left next, beating wings south. I was alone, at a crossroads of sorts in my life, in a position of perfect tranquility and silence. I didn’t know where lose to go, so I turned the quad around, and headed back to camp, knowing I’d passed a milestone in my life, and that I would never be back this way again.
Ive had similar experiences when duck hunting, shots on commited ducks with their landing gear down that were the dreams of my youth. I now find myself passing on, never a thought of shouldering my shottie instead my thoughts wander on the razor's edge between life and death we all balance on. As i watch the greenhead splash down and happily swim among the decoys not know how close he came i wonder how often God has played out this scenario on me.ReplyDelete
Very well written. I'm 60. Been deer hunting all of my life. Lately, I sit in the stand and watch deer go bye. I marvel at their beauty, gracefulness and toughness. They are works of art. I still harvest one for meat each season but I've let many a deer go by that I would've shot in years past. I will probably continue to go sit in the woods until I can't anymore. I never get enough of the beauty, silence and tranquility.ReplyDelete
...have been going through one of those "moments" now for about the last six months.ReplyDelete
It's taking quite a bit of effort to get my head around it.
Unsure where, or who, I will be once I sort it out.
Yes, Glen, things change on us all. For you, that magical place in the woods still calls. Instead of the raw excitement of taking that swamp donkey, your old body just tells you to enjoy that moment of isolation. It gives you time to re-live the adrenaline rush of your youth in those situations. And that's what your mind needs; the validation that you were young and strong once upon a time and accomplished great deeds. It's that phase of a man's life when you realize you're on the downhill side of it. It can be a bitter pill or it can be a warm glow that will take you home. You're a damn fine writer. That's why I keep coming back. I'm a couple thousand miles away, but we're on the same journey. It helps to know you're not traveling alone.ReplyDelete
You nailed it. Glen is a writer. He can get the point right in deep. And as you eloquently put it, that phase of a man's life where we realize we're on the downhill. I'm not a coaster, so I'll probably accelerate a bit to get what I want done before the long nap. But I'm getting my head around it now. And like FishStyx said, I'm not the same man I was..... or will be. Definitely moose meat for thought.Delete
As good as anything I have read today. Well said!ReplyDelete
You would do well to watch the movie "Windwalker", the best Western nobody ever watched.ReplyDelete
"In 1797 Utah, an aged Cheyenne patriarch helps his kin to fight off a raiding party of rival Crow warriors and he tells his grandchildren the story of their family."
You are not dead until the need for you is past.
Glen, that precisely describes the moment when things change. Well done.ReplyDelete
The only issue for many is that they fail to realize that moment and continue on, somehow hoping to recover the momentum, not realizing that it is past.
Well that's nice of you guys to say. Thanks for dropping in....ReplyDelete