Dec 082010

Shootin’ n snaggin’ with the Frugal Fisherman

One more year has come and gone. A fact I’m keenly aware of now that the days have become shorter. For many this change in seasons, this early arrival of night (or dawn, depending on one’s schedule) awakens ancient biorhythms, signaling the soul to rest, take it easy, and enjoy the silence. And though I do tend to slow down this time of year, daylight savings is anything but welcomed in my home.

For one, the shorter days seem to leave me in a funk. I’m lifeless. I sleep sporadically. I eat sporadically. I can never tell what time of day it is. I’m seemingly lost in the lost and found.

Unable to gain my bearings, I tend to drift listlessly through the fall. One moment I’m shoveling inordinate amounts of turkey, dressing and pie into my face. The next I’m stressing over the impending capitalist onslaught known as Christmas.

But this year things seem to be different. Not that I’m any “more rested,” “happier” or “in touch with myself.” Nope. I’m just as disorganized and frantic as ever. But having stared out my kitchen window for most of the morning, I think for the first time in my life I’m tuned in. I’m sentient. Conscious.

Not wanting the moment to end I continue to dream. I marvel at how cold and snow seem to slow down time. I watch as Maebelle, my pet groundhog, scurries from post to post in search of newly uncovered patches of green. I float away in time, only to be returned by the sound of a kettle whistle.

I pour the boiling water over freshly ground coffee beans. Waiting for the steep, I spoon a bowl venison chili, remembering the previous day’s fireside conversation. How Aquadan wanted to gather more limestone for his fire pit. His vision for extending his rock wall all the way to his back door, where he planned to make a rock bench. His asking Musicman if there were any tall herbs he could recommend to shelter and screen this spot in hopes of creating a place of solace.

And I remember Musicman echoing Aquadan’s sentiment, outlining his own desires to rip up his back deck and replace it with several raised garden beds. The excitement in his voice as he outlined plans for installing his cast-iron, potbelly stove in his newly renovated garage. The smile on his face as he showed each of us the pictures of his newly arrived granddaughter.

All of these and so many more memories flooded my mind. And with each bite of venison I drifted further and further back in time. I haven’t hunted in years–for reasons far too complicated to get into here. But I love the flavor and gaminess of wild meat. And though wild game always seems to be a bit tougher, it’s vastly more savory than it’s commercialized counterpart.

I had forgotten much of this. I all but lost how as a child I would hunt daily. How there was never a moment when I wasn’t in the woods with a shotgun or rifle in my hand. Deep in dream, I recall the excitement of the coming of fall and with it deer, squirrel, turkey and rabbit seasons. The sheer elation of knowing that for the next few months I’d be outside, where I always felt most secure. Whole.

I reminisce about the time I inadvertently fired a 30-30 round through the side of my grandfather’s Chevy pickup. How it was such a bitterly cold day that I couldn’t feel my thumb on the trigger. How mad as hell he was at me. And how glad he became moments later when he realized I wasn’t hurt.

Somehow I had forgotten this as well. Lost were these aromas, these nuances of the wild. Why they went missing leaves me at a loss, but now they’ve reappeared I feel refreshed. Reconnected.

Drifting once again I recall butchering the deer’s hind-quarter days earlier. How like a time machine I was immediately warped back to my grandfather’s barn. Cleaning a doe. Carefully determining the proper knife angle so as to maximize each cut.

I remembered how the simple act of gathering one’s own meals is so vastly rewarding compared to grocery shopping.

I revisit my garden, or what remains of it, in the back corner of my yard. Now covered by snow, I wonder if my greens will return with the melting. I marvel at the chickadees and cardinals pecking away a day at the bird feeder. I stare at my Redwing boots by the back door, still wet from the weekend’s play, and recall the warmth of yesterday’s fire.

Mostly I wonder and dream what the new year brings. Will I actually quit smoking this time? Will there be bees in the spring and honey in the fall? Will I build the chicken coup I’d planned the year before?

Much will pass before these questions are answered. In the meantime I’m thankful for what I have. Grateful for fantastic friends and family. Happy to have a window to stare out of as I dream about what has and what will be.

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