Sunday, November 7, 2010
A number of years ago, I was invited to join a neighbour and his buddy deer hunting, and happily I was the only one to get a shot off...on my camera. As keen as I was to participate in this ancient tradition, I wasn’t so sure how I’d handle witnessing the life go out of a beautiful animal.
I met Stewart and Doug early in the morning armed with a packed lunch and a load of enthusiasm. With the leaves down and crunchy, I wondered how we’d ever sneak up on anything. Off we went, up the snowmobile trail, around the swamp, over towards the mountain and up to the look-out. I’d never seen Victoria Lake before, and was amazed at the endless chains of lakes they pointed to and talked about.
I had no idea how we’d gotten where we were, but Stewart was raised in these parts and knew ever ridge and gully like all of it was his backyard. If something ever happened to him, however, I realized I couldn’t get back. Quickly I began checking behind to acquaint myself with as many landmarks as possible: tall stands of pine, creek beds and rock piles, but after a while it was all blurring. I had to just trust my guide.
We walked and walked and saw untouched wilderness. It was breathtaking - even under the dull, heavy sky. My amazement fluttered and flowed each time we came to a look-out: “What’s that? Where are we? Wow, is this ever beautiful.” At the end of the day, I was exhausted and famished like I’d never known before and thrilled for the adventure. What a great day.
Years later now and I finally understand how he never got lost. I’ve been walking this bush for fifteen years and have gained a similar intimacy with it. Often I’d go off trail and explore nooks and emerging pathways. Where does this beaver path go? How else can I get to the top of that hill? Where has my dog gone now!?!? With the luxury of time and the consistency of place, an elegant world has opened up and revealed itself.
This Thanksgiving, while walking out back with my family, my niece asked if I ever got bored hiking the same trails over and over again, and I explained it was always different. Each time I went with the intention of finding a treasure and each time I did. They weren’t always material objects I could take home, like turtle shells, antlers or vulture feathers. Sometimes I’d stumble upon and marvel at a blossoming orchid, or a deserted wasps’ nest, or a fiery orange sumac branch. Other times I’d find my mind wandering freely and uncovering important insights – real treasures.
Not ten minutes after I said that to her, we came across an astonishing find, as if our conversation was heard and we were directed to this spot. Lying on the trail was the skeletal remains of a young buck. It must have been there quite a while because it had been picked clean and the bones were taking on a greenish hue. None of us had seen anything like it: the whole animal lying there, bones still in alignment and clumps of fur around. The spirit of the animal had been long gone but its lesson of gentleness still remained.
Walking gently on the earth is a lesson for all time. Being careful and caring is our basic nature that sometimes gets forgotten in a fast paced society. There’s a tendency to want more in life, but sometimes when we have less we have the opportunity to enjoy it more, to go deeper into the relationship and really see the nuances, really feel the essence of what we’re involved with. That’s where the true magic is. It’s only after we become so intimate with something that we trip into a sublime connection that is the bliss we seek. Musicians repeating scales, athletes repeating plays, they too push through to reap the rewards that practice promises – the buzz of feeling fully alive.
We are all hunters seeking various treasures. It’s what keeps us going. But the more we’re looking for can’t be bought, it has to be earned. When we get to know something so intimately, life takes on another dimension. And that feeling, that wonderful gentle feeling can never be taken away.