Jason Hawkins Outdoors: Living through words
It’s 89 degrees on a Saturday night and the whole house is redolent of the smell of frying oil and fish.
The oil is of the bad old-fashioned variety — golden and heavy that makes the arteries narrow when the top is opened. Inside the cast iron skillet, where eggs and bacon and fried hamburgers and cornbread are common cousins, three palm-sized bream, caught from a farm pond where cows congregate, are frying crisp and hot.
When they are done, they are removed by a four-pronged fork and placed on a semi-used paper towel and batter and eggs and flour and buttermilk are dabbled, as batter is dabbled, and cast iron and grease and these common ingredients make cornbread.
This is one of many memories I have of a grandmother who never caught a fish or downed game, but made sure it was cooked and that I had the essentials by which to hunt and fish.
My grandmother passed recently and though she never walked with me down a game trail at 4 a.m., she was right there with me in spirit and will be forever.
She was a consummate listener and still smiled, even this past season, when I reported that we got a deer.
To her, such feats were special as she knew the joy they spawned in her family.
Early adventures in the outdoors were full of basic elements and though I thought they were normal then, I now know them as special and essentially the fabric that sewed me together.
I went with her more times than need to be admitted to a fabric shop in Durham as she made clothes for her children and us, too. Here, we found camouflage fabric and after skimming through patterns, I found something that I thought could be worn to hunt. Together, we cut and sewed and pinned and fitted and the product of such efforts on a Friday night was a handmade camouflage outfit that was functional and useful and it was made by Margaret and not by anyone in China.
I hunted in that suit for many years and reclaimed it recently and it is special for me and I wish I was twelve and could fit inside it now.
I recall mornings when she would be up — before she needed to be up — and a warm breakfast was waiting for me and though she was supportive, she was always cautious, too.
“Be home before dark,” she would say.
And, like every year since I was old enough to enter the great wild, alone, and even this past fall, she would call and say, “Just wanted to be sure you got home OK.”
Of my passion to fish, she shook her head when I told her of adventures we had offshore. She never saw the blue water, many miles offshore, but I know she absorbed every meager word I used to describe it.
And, like the clothes she made, she inserted herself in these adventures and all of my fishing friends know the taste of pound cake and saltwater bait and the smell of fish on your hands.
As is customary following the death of someone close, we reflect on what was and good times and all that is intimate with our losses. Death affects us all very differently, and we cannot always describe how important a person is to someone and express loss so that it is measurable.
Yet, as I write this and I continue to write, I know that she lived my life in the outdoors and that by me sharing my emotions through written word, to you, I am also sharing her with you.
We all experience life and death.
For this boy, when I am on the blue water or walking a trail, I will recall fried fish, pound cake, words of caution, and that she lived these exclusive moments with me and I experienced life and death, with her.
Enjoy your time outdoors. firstname.lastname@example.org