This weekend is one of my favorite of the year, the opening weekend of hunting season. Yes, it is true, as Chang Terhune might say, I engage in Chawbacon activity. All joking aside, I really do love this time of year, I am one of those people whose eyes light up like ships lanterns in the fog for Autumn. There is something about the dry, crisp air and the changing temperatures, the blue, into blue skies that makes it all too magical. This is just part of the ritual experience, and it is one that I have celebrated as part of my family traditions since I was a boy. Hunting is more than being a sapient being with a firearm killing ruminants folks. If someone is going just to go kill things they are missing the point.
Hunting is a chance to remember my father, and for a time experience closeness to him, though he is gone. It is chance to wake up and experience the thrill of the Moon before sunrise. To walk slowly through misty morning air, your breath smoking. To feel the fear of being in the woods and having only your hearing and smell to tell you what is beyond the horizon of darkness. To sit in silence, and solitude and watch the sunrise, and rise again, and rise finally until it breaks the horizon. Each phase its own sounds, its own color palette of night fading into the reds and golds of morning. It is to feel the cold and allow it to sink into you and to know the thrill of the possible.
You will see birds and squirrels, armadillos, raccoons, coyotes and feral hogs. And you will see the deer, the beautiful, fey, graceful deer. You will see their timid fawns and inquisitive does. You will see them sneak in with the dawn and like it all the same. And they will play for you, and argue amongst themselves and compete. You will see the young bucks, frisking and showing off. And if you are lucky, you will see a monarch of the woods. An old buck, hoary and regal, stepping with wisdom and awareness that he is hunted, and he will come to you, so you may regard him.
You will, and your heart will pound with joy. You will imagine yourself as him, and wonder what his world is like. Perhaps on this day you will choose to take him, to complete a compact written in blood for your choice to consume animal flesh. And if you do, your blood will turn into fire, your hands will shake and your breath will come in quick, rapid gasps as the power of the moment takes you. But perhaps you will only watch him, and you will feel better for choosing to let him go today, and you will be wiser for having been here this morning, watching the world wake up, a silent play just for you.
And you will come back, because you are enchanted and this is where your secret heart will be until you do.