I woke up this morning an hour before sunrise, crawled out of my truck’s camper shell, slung my rifle, and stepping between patches of exposed pine litter in order to avoid the crunchy snow, I followed a narrow trail that I scouted for the first time the previous afternoon. Weather and wind predictions caused me to second guess the area I’d normally have gone, so I’d made my way west to the Kootenai National Forest, which from a map looked pretty good, and as it turned out, it looked pretty good from the ground too. Tracks revealed the presence of deer.
I continued up the trail about half a mile and turned off, slipping through the brush to climb a bluff overlooking a small lake. As the last stars faded from the sky, I reached the top, identified my shooting lanes, and while waiting in perfect stillness, I tried to imagine to life a buck appearing where I’d level my sights. But, as the day’s light burned from the lake its last vapors, no such buck would ever materialize. I would return home deerless again, the last time this season.
“So it goes,” stated author, Kurt Vonnegut. So it goes….
Lack of cell service and knowledge of the Kootenia turned me back east, hunters in every location I’d scouted east turned me home, and a bank account stretched to its last dollar keeps me here. Of course, the weather is nothing as predicted—unseasonably warm without even a breeze. But I’m far from discontent. I feel restored in a way a person only can after communing with the natural environment, and, as was needed, I had time to organize the random assemblage of thoughts lodged in my brain as only solitude allows.
So what of these thoughts? Firstly, Thanksgiving being only a few days past, I thought of gratitude... To wax Walt Whitmanian,
I am thankful for the home, wherever Jess, Nika, Minnie, and I should make it, for the warmth it provides.
I am thankful for the beneficence of neighbors who’ve invited me to share in their meals, as well as their fellowship, as I’d otherwise be without so many miles from my family.
I am thankful for the unbreakable psychic bonds of family, which bridge the greatest distances and fill me continually with love and support.
I am thankful for the wild, remote, and often remorseless beauty of this country’s last untrammeled lands—its ability to test, inspire, and restore.
And I am thankful for my students who, born of this country, move me much the same.
That said, I am truly thankful for many things. But, with winter setting in and hunting season, which had carried me through the fall doldrums, now over-- and not to mention my classroom looking like some post-tornadic hell since the winds took it-- I recognize that difficulties lay ahead. Perhaps the run up to Christmas break and a visit to my family will assuage them. Perhaps I will still be able to make a few trips outdoors. I’m not sure. I just know that intellectual pursuits like reading and writing, or even wrapping my mind entirely around school, drain me. What I need is a healthy physical outlet and a corresponding goal to keep me level.
That’s where this comes in…
A kettlebell. Variants on this beautiful piece of iron date back to swingable slabs of stone in ancient Greece, and factoring in the school gym in the process of renovation due to flooding, a Spartan kettlebell regimen may just have to do. But hey, it seems exciting enough to me—a new source of mild obsession to center me existentially. As to how it actually pans out, I guess I’ll see.