I was the only one to show any interest in hunting with my father. On the anointed Saturdays, there was the fixed set of early sounds, still at home just waking, those sounds I only heard before light. The trains, for one. Or maybe the trains were everything. I could hear them from inside, where I was still pulling on long underwear, socks, shoes, wiping my eyes awake, wiping my whole vision clean for entering the woods. I was the one who would get up out of bed for this. This, one of the only things I would get up for. It’s one of the first things, as a child, I remembered really wanting.
I and my father loaded ourselves into the outsized baby blue pickup truck, a departure from the Pontiac he sold real estate out of. His camouflage a departure from his customary pale suits. This was the him I always thought he wanted to be more of. This was the father that taught me the thing I considered most important later – to walk into wilderness and be as quiet and as still as possible.
I don’t know where he took us – just us – driving out from the city into horizons full of trees scraping bald between late fall and early winter. I identified that sky and tree line as distinctive; to deer hunting, to reverie. We walked, mute and cold, among the trunks and branches naked and pale. We climbed up onto a wooden stand and waited. There was no flushing out in hunting for deer, not like ducks or grouse. The dog wasn’t with us. The only way was to seem part of the woods, and nothing more.
I learned to stand still, watch and listen, to smell rose pink air pregnant with coming snow. To see the life in a woods others might call dead from all of the dried up and brown. I held my coldness, I held my curiosity – and I lost any impatience or need.
If I’d not also learned other things from my father – to do what you’re supposed to do, to never disappoint – I might have done what was in both of our hearts and stuck to the woods. Left all the rest behind. And if I finally ever do that, now or in my own late fall, it would be for both of us.
I've been writing for a long, long time and trying now to do it for all the right reasons: achieving presence, process, and regular doses of expression and gratitude. And Valley's classes make a big difference!