There have been plenty of times in my life when I've questioned my own sanity. Yesterday afternoon was another one of those.
The remnants of superstorm
were still swirling over
making the weather service radar maps look like slow-motion water circling a
drain. Being holed up in the studio for the last two days, I'd had enough
puttering around and needed to get out. A break between bands of rain offered
me a chance to check my trail cams, move a tree stand, and maybe do a little
hunting. I was out the door as soon as my lunch dishes hit the sink. Pennsylvania
Everything seemed damp and cold outside. It wasn't quite raining, but it hadn't quite stopped either. The deluge of rain and wind from the previous two days had stripped the trees of any remaining leaves and the water soaked bark made their trunks look almost black against the landscape. A fine mist was now falling from the sky and I wondered to myself if this afternoon's outing might be a mistake. It was Halloween and dealing with the onslaught of neighborhood trick-or-treaters back at the studio didn't really appeal to me, so I pushed any negative thoughts to the back of my head... for now. Resolute in my plan, I slipped on my rubber boots and rain gear, shouldered my pack and trudged away from the truck.
Two hours after leaving the relative comfort of my truck, I found myself twenty feet up in a sparse hemlock staring out over a swamp... and getting soaked. As I sat there assessing my situation, the rain was coming steadily and showed no sign of letting up. It wasn't raining hard, but it was still enough that the insides of my "waterproof" Gortex gloves were wet and water was starting to seep from the cuffs of my parka to my elbows. At that moment, I had a decision to make. Either call it a day and head back to the truck or tough it out for the next three-and-a-half hours until dark. It seemed like an easy conclusion, but I decided to stay... smiling to myself as the rain and wind seemed to increase at that very moment.
|Ignore the time and date stamp. I changed the batteries and forgot to reset the clock.|
I'd love to continue this story with a tale about a big buck eventually ending up in the back of my truck, but that's not what happened. In fact, I never saw a deer (at least not until I got back to the studio and checked the memory cards from my trail cameras). The hunting aspect of this little adventure became secondary to the experience of actually being there to experience something very few have the fortitude (or lack of common sense) to face. At nearly fifty years of age, I'm not as adventurous as I used to be. I do, however, like to challenge myself on occasion... and it rarely goes without reward. Sure, I had a great-horned owl sit on a hemlock bow less than sixty feet away and shake the rain from his soaked feathers. A merlin (only the second one I've ever seen in PA) took a sparrow just above the swamp's overgrowth, landing nearby to dismantle and eat his prize. But this afternoon, I learned something about myself. Sitting completely still for three hours in the driving rain (not to mention the 39° air temperature) gives a person a lot of time for soul searching.
I wondered about my hermit-like existence, as I often do. I'm never quite sure if my need for solitude is from some sort of anti-social tendency, mental illness, or just part of my natural transformation into a crusty old fart. I find myself avoiding people with certain extreme personality traits... especially overly negative folks (I have enough uncertainty of my own without someone else's black cloud rolling over my life) and those that propel themselves in all directions in mach-two-hyper-spaz mode. I've never understood how someone can live their life like a superball in a blender, trying to go every direction at the same time at twice the speed of stupid, seemingly never accomplishing anything, regularly running their life off in a ditch and wondering how they got there.
The pace of my life is much slower than that and I've settled into a comfortable gate that gets me where I need to go while allowing me to enjoy the journey. In that context, sitting there in such inclement weather seemed perfectly natural. So at that very moment, I found myself leaning toward my crusty old fart theory and it made me laugh.
In fact, I found myself laughing to myself a lot as afternoon crept to evening and the rain began to let up a bit. The rain was still dripping steadily from the bill of my cap and my cold wet hands were nearly numb. I had to shake my head at the lunacy of this small adventure... or maybe at how much I was enjoying it.
As darkness descended upon the waterlogged landscape, I climbed down from my stand. Once again, I shouldered my pack and began the nearly half-mile hike back to the truck. Back out on the trail, the mud and standing water made the footing less than ideal, but I slogged happily along. Happy that I'd made it through the evening proving to myself that I could. Happy that my hours of isolation had led my thoughts down such a pleasant path of introspection. Happy to be headed back to the house for some dry underwear!