A few weeks ago I sat with someone who has never fished the waters or hunted the fields of central North Carolina. We were discussing a topic close and personal to me: outdoors writing.
This person holds the reins of something very important and necessary in our society, even though its cloak may be changing. I was a very amateur writer 17 years ago when I penned my first outdoors column for the Herald-Sun newspaper. Now, all those years later, I am writing a column that I hope reflects growth, but also a renewed and enhanced pursuit of the outdoors, through words.
In our conversation, I explained to my new editor, Mark Schultz, that writing for me is rarely about the technical aspects of hunting and fishing. Honestly, if I had to survive by writing the perfect steps and theories on how to catch fish or have success in the field, I would not survive with a full belly.
Instead, my pursuit in outdoors writing has been to find that emotion, that moment lived by those who spend hours by the water or walking a frost-laden morning field. In essence, there is much more to the outdoors than sharpening a hook or harvesting game. It we miss out on the moments, we may miss out on their unexpected ability to create life memories and, with enough moments, a memorable life, too
It is out here, where the trails and paths course, that boys become men and men become boys, again.
It is here that an old yellow lab, one that walks with a limp to his left front leg and whose face is soft, sits still and watches the sky and then springs forward to retrieve at the sound of the shot. And two days later with tears in your eyes, you remember nothing about the shot and only that this yellow lab, whose coat is faded white, sprang forward one last time.
We follow behind fathers and mentors and uncles and friends, and every experience we have – from hiding within a blind to arriving at a fence gate to the parts when our hearts skipped at the sound of approaching hooves – are experiences that are valuable beyond definition.
We grow here. We laugh here. We mourn here.
We plant a tree because we know the value in trees. We tote old photographs of people that are important and we carve initials in the base of a tree trunk, just as our dad did and his dad before that. We catch small fish and we celebrate a small fish as if it were big fish when it’s the first fish caught by a small person. We move quietly within the shadows of the trees and we stand on a hill and we feel the warmth and watch slowly as the sun gently paints the frost away and turns a white field a dewy green.
And, we learn here, and we learn to love what we love here and to speak the language of the outdoors, that being quiet is loud and silence is a virtue and that when we are both quiet and silent we become part of these wild places.
And so thankfully I am humbled to have the continued opportunity to write of these places. It has never been my purpose to write a reader into success. Instead, my interest is in sharing and capturing the emotions found through the outdoors. These emotions come from hunting. These emotions come from fishing. These emotions come from standing by a black walnut tree and watching the moon rise and the sun disappear.
Mark asked me, “How have you not repeated yourself all these years in your columns?”
I said to him that every experience and moment is different, that is what makes the outdoors so special. I’m lucky enough to string these moments and experiences together in a few words.
Enjoy your time outdoors.
Jason Hawkins lives in Orange County. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org