Jason Hawkins outdoors column
I could have driven along these woods. I could have used the off-road vehicle and navigated this path. Yet, it felt appropriate to walk. It felt authentic to step over sticks. There was something natural about my gait and the melodic repetition of my feet in the soft mud.
It was one of those days that seem to only happen once in awhile, and where the day had begun in silence, was now ending with an audible infiltrate, which seemed to spread from this tree stand to the noticeably empty hills below.
Where soft steps and the slosh of moist grass moved the hunter from ground to tree, it is the sun that moves the spirit of the hunter, even if steps are never taken.
I encourage discovery and independence in the outdoors for my two boys.
The naked light bulb is silently persuaded by what remains of an overnight wind. He stands by the screen door, and his left hand lingers along the switch panel. It is 5:30 a.m., and he is up and dressed as one cup of coffee is being followed by a second on the last Saturday of the summer. His knees are one season older, and his eyesight is another sunrise weaker.
We had walked through the knee-high grass toward the stretching moon with darkness chasing us. Instead of leading this subtle charge up the hill, which rises from west to east, I was following. In front of me and below me was a properly fearless 7-year old whose hands I know well. His eyes are stoic and absorbing, and his lips are pursed just so.
One of these days, I’m going to follow the rainwater that falls on the hill and crawls to the stream below. I will follow this water through the tall grass and puddles of mud. The stream will become wider, I suppose, and tickle its way into a river. I’ll marvel at the scenery nearby. There will be birds in trees and game upon the banks.
It is about time. It is about wanting more time, not wasting any time and wondering how time goes by. Again, another passage of summer has occurred. Oh, what of these 13 years of writing of the passage of summer. And what of these years living the passages of summer from childhood to adulthood.
Ever since there was at least a two-hour window between a clean diaper and the next unclean diaper, both of my boys have known of fishing. This summer, the youngest turned 7 years old and the oldest 10. So with a combined 17 years of angling experience, they are quite proficient with hook and bait.
It has been the summer to be cleansed. The rain has washed us, encouraged growth, swollen creeks, muddied paths and made rivers rage. As an angler and someone who gains spirit and purpose from my steps outdoors, the weather serves as a catalyst to how purpose and spirit evolve.
There are 176 miles from where I sit to the 41036 sea buoy, out in the lonesome, sometimes desolate and occasionally stoic, western Atlantic. On my phone, my thumb and index finger navigate me to the application that provides real-time information about this particular buoy. I check the wind — sometimes I frown, a few times I smile and I always wonder. I check the wave height — sometimes I doubt, a few times I anticipate but I always wonder.
The one-pound plastic bag of cold shrimp contained enough to occupy my two boys for 15 minutes. Really, they were not as interested in using the shrimp as bait as much as they were using the fish they caught as bait.
There really is no end of the day. This is how he sees life through blue eyes that are hidden behind dark sunglasses. He is old but not too old. He is young but old enough. He is alone but not lonely. He is healthy but not immune.