Bearing Burdens

This article was first published April 17, 2019, at sportingclassicsdaily.com.

It doesn’t always happen on the first sit.

Sometimes it takes a few days, maybe even a couple of weeks. One year, my kids were picking out their Halloween costumes before it happened, but I generally feel it before fall’s first frost. Peace. Perspective. I climb into a tree, clip the strap of my safety harness into its carabiner, and the worries of my world just slough off like a second skin.

This year, it took longer than it ever has before to find that peace. So long, in fact, that I began to question whether or not my burdens might finally be too heavy for Mother Nature to bear. It seems like the older I get, the more responsibilities I’m handed, the longer it takes me to lay my burdens down. Used to, they’d roll off my shoulders every time I shouldered my rifle or stretched the string of my bow, but not this year. This year, my burdens held on for all they were worth.

And why wouldn’t they?  They’re legitimate concerns, every one. Working a job and a half to make ends meet for a family of six, buying new school shoes is a challenge, much less paying for college. And the world in which my four children are growing up, the world so different than the one I knew and trusted from my childhood? Well, no wonder I have trouble sleeping at night.

It didn’t help, either, that I wasn’t seeing the kind of deer this season that could distract me from the daily grind. Nothing special on my trail camera to give me hope. Hunting started to feel like a chore. The very thing I’d always depended upon to relieve my burdens was actually adding to them, instead.

And then at my family’s annual deer camp my brother gifted me a new journal, and it saved my season. I didn’t kill a deer on that hunt, nothing so storybook as that, but I did find the peace that had eluded me for so long and the perspective so crucial for surviving life between hunting seasons.

The journal’s effectively a leather dust jacket, which is perfect because the notepad within can be filled up and then replaced. I’ve got journals on my shelves in my office that will never again see the light of day because they’re full. So this one is practical. But it’s also personal. The quote inscribed on its cover came from a piece I penned several years ago that no one had any interest in publishing. Ironic, too, because I still believe it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written. The quote on the cover of my new journal? The quote that saved my season and paved the way for my peace and perspective?

 “We don’t hunt to take life.  We hunt to find it.”

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