I had been in the tree for the later half of the afternoon. Another week of work in the books and I was tired of people. Mostly. I just needed a break from them. I like people. I really do. But when I’m done, I’m done. This week had also marked the one year anniversary of the death of one of my best friends in this world. Busyness. Fatigue. Melancholy. Friday. I needed to get back to the cabin and in a tree.
It was warm and still for late October. My deoderant was wearing thin. Not a good combination for deer hunting. When the air is still, scent will drift down the tree and then plume outward like an upside down mushroom. I didn’t care. Hunting was really only part of this outing. The introvert that makes up a large part of my DNA was calling me home. I made it home. Dropped my stuff, grabbed my bow and went out in the yard to fling a few arrows at the target. Better than last time. Hopped on the 4-wheeler and headed to one of my stands.
I had been itching to get back to deer hunting since earlier in the week I’d watched a nice 8 point buck meander across the hay field below the cabin. I’m not one who puts much stock in antlers. Meat is meat as far as I’m concerned. But there he was moving across the field with his nose to the ground trailing a doe somewhere ahead of him. The rut had started and I wanted to get in on the action.
A few hours of tree therapy later and I was starting to settle in. The mosquitos weren’t as bad as I’d figured, but I hadn’t seen anything either. My mind started to drift to some interactions I’d had with people in the past few hours. There was the lady I followed into the hardware store who was so immersed in her cell phone that she was completely oblivious that I was behind her. Moving with the slow zombie stagger I eventually had to just walk around her. She was still oblivious. There was the guy who pulled out in front of the car in front of me and was almost T-boned because he apparently couldn’t wait the extra few seconds for us to go by. Then there was the lady from the reality show production company that had called me during lunch wanting to talk about Cabin People. Apparently they were looking for a community where a bunch of people all live in self-sufficient cabin lives. I had to tell her she probably wouldn’t find it. Even in the rural South we’re an anomaly. I can point to great people from Alaska to Australia who embody that ethos, but if you’re looking for us to be all grouped up you’re kind of missing the point.
Three hours had passed. The sun had just dipped down and the air was finally cooling down. If they’re coming, now is the time. I wait. I stare at the broadhead tip of my arrow silhouetted against the evening sky and I get a weird idea to take a picture and send it to the TV lady with a message that says this is what my world looks like. It’s getting darker. The late October fog is starting to settle in on the field to the east as the red sky starts fading to a greyish blue. Then out of the corner of my eye I see movement. A hundred yards to the west, through the trees I see the shapes of two deer moving and then disappear into the underbrush. Everything is still. I don’t know if they’re going to head my direction, but I slowly stand up and get ready. Everything is quiet. The birds have mostly settled in for the night and there is no breeze. I wait. My stomach growls. Hunting always seems more profound when you’re hungry.
Then to my left motion. I’m not sure if it’s the same deer or not, but a doe steps out into the opening about 40 yards away. Still too much distance and brush. It looks like she’s going to stay out of shooting range and then she turns and starts working her way toward me. I feel the adrenaline surge. This could be it. 25 yards, still too much brush for a clean shot. Still moving closer. One more bush and she’ll be in the kill zone. I’m just about to pull the string back when she stops.
And looks up. Busted.
She caught my scent. Still I didn’t move. Blowing she turned and jumped back about 15 yards behind some more trees and then turned around, stomped her foot and blew again. She didn’t know what I was. I wouldn’t move. She took a few more steps closer. Still looking. I thought I might be able to salvage this.
Then more movement behind her. Sweet Jesus could that be a buck? I can’t see. It’s getting darker and it won’t come out. The doe is still staring straight at me. My heart is pounding.
And then I think back. To the zombie lady at the hardware store. To the impatient guy who almost caused a wreck. To the TV lady looking for something that wasn’t there. And I wanted them all with me. Right there. Right then. I wanted them to see this. I wanted them to feel this. I wanted them to know that this is what a connection feels like. This moment staring down a deer in the wild. Her instinct for survival and my instinct to hunt coming face to face. This is real connection. To the zombie. This moment was more intimate than a thousand encounters with people I’d had over the past month. To the man who almost caused a wreck. This was the moment worth waiting for. To the reality TV lady. This is actual reality. If you want to know where to find life, search for it in the moment something might die so that something else might eat.
And then in a moment she was gone. Turning and running back into the trees with the other deer following behind. She never really knew what I was, but she wasn’t going to take the chance.
In the darkness I climbed back down the tree. Empty handed, I felt more content than I had all week.
In the meantime…live well…laugh often…love always.