Friday, September 4, 2015

Breaking the Silence

No, not the silence on this blog, but a different kind of silence. The silence you hear as you're sitting alone in the middle of the prairie on an early fall afternoon, measuring your insignificance against the passage of time and the whisper of the grass around you. That silence you don't want to break because it's telling you something. You're not sure what, you can't exactly put your finger on it, but whatever it is, it's important, fundamental, crucial. So you go on listening, even as a few dove start to fly overhead. That's what you're out here for, after all, but here you sit with a forgotten shotgun in your hand, lost in a language you can't speak but vaguely understand, and what it's saying is beautiful and ancient and right. So you let the dove land unscathed at the water's edge. You watch, you listen, and you find something of yourself in the silence.

The day before, you hunted this same windmill with your son (which, incidentally, is when this photo was taken). You didn't shoot near a limit then, and you're probably not going to shoot a limit now (especially if you keep contemplating your naval) so why, you ask yourself, end this beautiful silence and the story it's etching within you, so soon, and for so little in return? There's plenty of time before sunset.

A few more dove come in, scratch around the croton and ragweed, then pigeon-toe down to the water's edge, where they join a lone spotted sandpiper tail-bobbing its way around the cracked mud. You sit there for longer than you should, listening to the grass, to your thoughts, to the distant shots of other, more pragmatic and eager hunters.
It's a helluva thing, hunting the mid-life crisis, especially since you were once such an enthusiastic and dedicated killer. Some try to keep that passion going by pursuing bigger, fiercer, more exotic things by which to take the measure of themselves, but you're happy with the wind and the silence, and accepting of your slowly waning need to kill toward some arbitrary goal.

But you also love to eat dove, and the silence (as well as the shots of other hunters) is now telling you that you'd better get your ass to shooting some birds if you want something for the grill. So you pick up the shotgun and break the silence. You always break the silence, eventually. You must, because it's what you are. You may no longer kill toward arbitrary goals, but a good meal is a pretty damn clearly defined one.