Respite

The day before Thanksgiving, we saw our first snow storm. It wasn’t a surprise, we all knew it was coming. We prepared to hunker down and ride out the storm quietly and comfortably.
Then the phone rang. A few moments later, after I hung up, I was gearing up for work. 3-11, right through the worst part of the storm.

When I got to the station, the day shift worker was filling out paperwork on five accidents she had dealt with. While my own shift ended up being largely uneventful, it was cold, and the roads were a disaster. Every time I had to go anywhere at all was nerve-wracking. Especially since I had elected to take the brand new fleet car. Messing up in the snow would have been bad enough, messing up with that vehicle would have been the end of me.

This should give you an idea of how much of the night went:

Although, admittedly, while I watched the tow trucks (yes, it eventually took two to get that guy out) sliding across the road towards the ditch as they tried to winch him out, I was in the car with the radio on and heat blaring, so yeah, all things considered- it could have been worse. But still, by the time I got home at close to midnight, I was exhausted, even if my call volume wasn’t that high. Snow storms are bad enough, made worse when you’re the guy expected to be out driving in it.

Thanksgiving the next day was another adventure, we planned on having dinner with my parents at 2, since I had to be back on for work at 3 again. Since nothing ever goes as planned though, we didn’t sit down at the table until 2:30. I bolted thanksgiving dinner, eating far too little far too fast, and headed out the door again. I was able to go back and hang out after I came on, but I was at technically at work, so my ability to fully enjoy my favorite holiday was somewhat hampered. I still very much enjoyed it, but I was slightly distracted.

I got home and went to bed around 1am, making sure to turn the ambulance pager on before I did, I was coming on at 3am, and running for a straight 39 hours, until 6PM tonight, so technically, even as I write this I’m still working.

Being on call with the ambulance is sort of a win/win. I’m either out on a call and getting paid, or remanded to my house in case I GET called which almost forces me to slow down. I didn’t get any calls yesterday, so I was able to get a little bit of down time. At The Narrator’s urgings, I took him out and we played in the snow for a while, and broke out the plastic tote full of Christmas decorations and started untangling the lights. I even managed a catnap or two on the couch, and headed to bed sort of early last night. So, I am rested, honestly rested for the first time in a long while.

December promises to be a monsoon of activity. I’ve been scheduled for six night shifts with the PD, my usual 8 ambulance shifts, eight days worth of (paid, woo hoo!) training, and the day job….all before adding in the mandatory holiday travels and obligations.

So I had nothing to do yesterday, and exactly as much to do today. I have a weekend.

And, to be honest, the time is not only giving me the opportunity to nap, but to reflect on the meaning of this season. I spent yesterday thinking about what I am thankful for. My family is at the top of my list. Happy, healthy, and my drive to constantly do better. There’s a little plaque on our wall that says “We May Not Have it all Together, But Together We Have it all.” – and its true. With these three in my life, I may have rough days and plenty of concerns, but I am happy. I can’t imagine life without them, and every day is a chance for another adventure.

I am also thankful for my work. Not only because I HAVE work, but I have been blessed enough to finally find the job of my dreams. I hope to get into it full-time one of these days and make a real career out of it, but in any capacity I get to do it- I love it. The year plus of training and preparation for it was well worth it. And, since I get in the car every shift and think to myself “I can’t believe they let me do this job” – I’m right where I want to be.

I am a lucky man, regardless of what looking at my calendar might tell you. Yeah, I spend more time out of the house than in, yeah, I worry about when I’ll be able to pay for what, yeah, my sleep cycle is scarce and unpredictable, and yeah, right now it is winter and I am at the height of grumpiness and misery…..

But I am lucky. I have a ton to be thankful for, such as a family I love and who supports me, a job I adore, a past full of memories, and a future full of promise.

There are also so many little things I am thankful for. Such as the fact that the plow driver who does our road is a fellow driver for the ambulance, and clears out the end of the driveway for me, slashing my shoveling time down exponentially. Finally, I have to be thankful for the plethora of internet strangers who for some reason find it necessary to wade through my posts on a semi-daily basis. I can’t figure out WHY you all come back here, but you do, and I am thankful for it. Without you, this blog would be akin to a strange man standing on a street corner muttering insanities to himself. Having a crowd to mutter insanities to makes one look a little less strange, so thank you all for that.

Now. If you’ll excuse me, There is a second cup of coffee calling my name, a National Lampoons-esque tangle of Christmas lights that needs my attention, and two little boys that have their daddy home for an unheard of second day in a row.

COMING SOON: AD GETS TAZED.

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Diagnosis? Invertebrate Toddler-itis.

If you’re a fellow parent/blogger and not following these two, you’re WordPressing all wrong.

Hot Heels, Cool Kicks, & a Scalpel

As a physician, I wanted to let all moms know, that Yes!  Finally!  Our suspicions about the sudden loss of bony structures in our toddlers is a real phenomenon. And, the medical community is finally taking note.

I noticed in the latest version of my owner’s manual (version 2,3664.01….), you know the book that tells you how to do everything the “right way” so you always know what to do with your children at all ages and stages?  Yeah, that one.  Well, I was perusing my latest downloaded version, and this sudden inability of my toddler to stand up or maintain his own body weight against gravity is explained!

It is called… Invertebrate Toddler-itis.

Symptoms are chiefly exhibited by acute flaccid paralysis, which is usually accompanied by watery discharge from eyes and nose (aka crying hysterically), loud wailing only interrupted by said child inhaling deeply only to begin wailing again, and a flushed face.

Typical situations in which you might find this…

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I Fell in a River.

Yesterday morning was one of the few occasions that my schedule allowed for me to head out on a deer hunt this season. The added bonus was that my brother-in-law was up, so he and I headed out at around 5:30am to beat the sun to our spot.

We parked the car near the south bank of the river, about 40 feet from a bridge, which naturally crossed to the north side of said river. We geared up, and started to follow the south bank for a hundred yards or so before I remembered that we needed to be on the other side.
“Ah, crap.” Says I. “We should have crossed the bridge back there, we need to be over there.”Mat (Brother in law) grunted. He isn’t a man of very many words first thing in the morning.
“No matter, there’s a place to cross up ahead.”
Another grunt.

In the dark, I managed find what looked like a marvelous spot to cross the river. At a bend, the water narrowed to a deep channel, with several attractive rocks sticking out above the surface.

As I shifted my weight to step onto the very first rock, I remembered something. it had rained all night long. Then I remembered something else. Rocks get slippery when they get wet.
“Maybe this isn’t such a great……”

Splash.

I found myself sitting in the river, which in late November in upstate NY, is full of water which could be described as more than mildly brisk.

In a flash, I stood up and scrambled to the other side, the sounds of Mat’s laughter ringing through the hills enough that I think he may be responsible for us not having seen any deer that morning.

From the waist down, I was sodden. Every layer of clothes I had on was wet, and I could feel an icy rivulet snaking down the natural contours of my lower anatomy and finding its way into my right boot.

SOMEHOW I managed to keep my rifle out of the water, and at this very moment I realize that my holstered pistol was also completely dry…though I’m not sure exactly how….

Soldiering on, I was grateful for the fact that it was nearly forty degrees out, and not the frozen wonderland I had experienced on opening day. My gratefulness degenerated into agony when we reached our spot and I sat still for nearly three hours, allowing the chill plenty of time to seep into all of my lower joints and muscles. Somewhere around 9am, we had to get up and walk so I could shake the tingles of paralysis from my body.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever had the pleasure of peeling off layers of soaking wet clothes, but the misery is real.

To make matters worse, the only living creature I saw that morning was a single squirrel who skittered along the stone wall I was leaning against in pain and misery. We came eye-to-eye for a second, and when he realized I wasn’t part of the tree that he planned on climbing, he shrieked at me in irritation and moved on.

So. For a man that hates cold and wet, I spent (willingly) several hours outside in those exact conditions engaging in a hobby which came to no fruition, then went home and went to work until midnight.

…If anyone can suggest a better, and less uncomfortable way to spend spare time, I’m all ears.

Thanksgiving- Reminisce and Wish.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. We alternate between families on the holiday, one year visiting my wife’s parents, the next staying and visiting mine. This year we are staying, and I am working a C-line. The holiday pay simply couldn’t be passed up.

Some of my fondest memories as a kid are going to my grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving. The family that gathered there was so numerous that her little house was always hot, noisy, and smelling of some amazing things. Ante pasta salad was placed out and picked at all day long. Bread dips, crackers, cheese, and a hundred other morsels that made it a wonder anyone could eat dinner at all.

We used to have to bring in tables from the garage to accommodate the number of people there. Turkey had to be piled high on two plates, one for each end of the line of tables. Red cabbage, cooked in red wine sat in massive bowls, to be mostly empty by the time dinner was over. Turnips, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, string beans, rolls, candied sweet potatoes, baked and spiced potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy…the ancient tables used to groan under the weight.

Dinner would end, and my uncles and cousins would sit back and watch football. The women would drink wine and converse in the kitchen over the cleanup. The kids, well, we would amuse ourselves as best we could in the tiny little house.

Seemingly far too soon after eating dinner, out came the desserts. Apple pie, pumpkin pie, and the favorite…blackberry pie, the berries we had struggled to pick on wild bushes all summer long and have frozen until this very day. That pie was always worth every scratch and scrape from the blackberry brambles that grew next to my grandmother’s house.

We would all waddle out of that house at the end of the night, happy, heavy, and more than a little sleepy. I don’t remember the drives home, because I was usually asleep the minute we got in the car.

Things have changed drastically now.

My grandmother lives with an aunt. The house itself, which used to be bulging with people on Thanksgiving, now sits completely empty but for a few days a year when they come visit. Various fractious events have happened, and many of the people I used to look forward to seeing on Thanksgiving way back when don’t even talk to each other anymore. The kids…well, we’ve all grown up, most of us have kids of our own. Even the beloved blackberry bushes are gone. Cut down to make way for a driveway to a small development, or overshadowed and choked off by pine trees which were mere shrubs when I was a kid.

I don’t really lament the loss of those days though, even if the circumstances behind that loss are a bit sad.

Truthfully, since I love the holiday so much, I now have the chance to share it in my own way with my kids. We’ve begun to create our own memories, ones that are fast replacing the sepia-toned snapshots in my mind’s eye which are all that remain of yesteryear.

The changed circumstances surrounding the holiday are not to be sad about, but looked forward to. Nothing stays the same. People change, grow, grow apart, die, or move on. Even family. Especially family, as the young grow up and the old grow older.

So, while I would be lying if I tell you I won’t drive past my grandmother’s empty house while I am on patrol that night, and sigh just a little bit when I remember those amazing days…I am also looking forward to the new days in the hopes that some day, to my boys, THESE will be times they remember with the fondness of the ones I have in my mind.

And here is my wish to all of you who have taken the time to read this blog of mine in the last near-year which I’ve been writing it:

Make memories next week. If you have children, make it something they can remember later on, something they can look back on in twenty years and smile about. If you don’t have children, continue to make Thanksgiving something YOU can look back on and remember with fondness.

It is easy to get caught up in the stress and hustle of the holiday season, with Thanksgiving being the forerunner to a few weeks of absolute chaos. I won’t pretend that I don’t get stressed out, anxious, and downright grinchy at times. But even if I do, I try to set back and enjoy the time I have with the people I have. In the end, no matter what else happens, that’s the point isn’t it?

If you’re traveling next week, do it safely, and every one of you needs to have one hell of a Thanksgiving Holiday.

Why I Don’t Argue With My Wife

My wife and I are a normal couple. We laugh, love, and sometimes…bicker. Rare are the blow-outs, although they do happen now and again, usually when one or both of us is exhausted or frustrated over something and a small problem becomes an outlet for a full-blown storm.

The thing of it is though, I try really hard to NOT fight with my wife. Not because I feel like we shouldn’t fight, but because I’m so terrible at it. I’m really no good at arguing with her. Her mind is simply faster and more agile than mine. We had the following conversation yesterday:

Me: “….and that is exactly why I can’t argue with you. Every time I try to, you turn the tables on me and I’m under the gun again.”
Her: “Whatever do you mean?”
Me: “Well, if I try to point out a mistake you made or issues you have, all of a sudden, you’ll come back with MY failings and rather than address your problems, I’m on the defensive.”
Her: “Well, why do you think I have the problems in the first place?”
Me: “WHAT!? NO….YOU’RE DOING IT RIGHT NOW!”
Her: “I know what I’m doing.”

….I went and made a sandwich.

The Irony of Technology

If only that button didn’t ring my phone automatically…..

My day job, and the least favorite of the three…is in IT. I manage the basic on-site needs for a school. There are days when I don’t get to sit down long enough to have lunch, and other days where I’m one cup of coffee away from falling asleep in the office, surrounded by the soft hum of machinery.

Schools are rapidly trying to get out on the forefront of technology. Integrating the latest technological advancements into curriculum gets people extraordinarily excited. Distance learning classrooms, smartboards, iPads, schools leap onto these ships as soon as they come in, and that is a wonderful thing….except for one minor problem.

The end user.

I’ve written before about how individual users will push hard against new technology while the school as a whole seeks to plunge them into a terrifying world of star-trek like techno-wizardry, and this causes problems for me as a technician because most of my work tickets involve me turning on power strips or hitting F-keys to exit browsers from full-screen mode.

The most amazing thing for me though, is that while people seek ‘thingys’ to do anything they need and access anything they want at any given time of day, they’re not USED as such, especially when there’s a question regarding its usage or capabilities. We live in a world full of virtual field trips, satellite access to almost any place in the world, constant, immediate contact with anyone and everyone across the globe, and a galaxy of information that takes seconds to access.

If you have a question about the Ming dynasty, metric conversions, isotopic properties of palladium, Emily Bronte’s love life…its all there, in seconds.

But as soon as there’s a TECHNICAL question? Apparently this creates a paradox, and the entire world of technology itself shuts completely down, and the user is back to banging on rocks with sticks hoping to make discoveries.

“Hmm, let me see. How long did Fiorello LaGuardia’s mother breastfeed him for? Hello Google…ah, yes…here it is. Fourteen months, three days. Thanks internet!”

“Hmm….let me see…my menu bar is missing from my web browser? ABORT! ABORT! F*ING ABORT! CALL THE TECH GUY, I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO, I NEED A NEW COMPUTER, WTF IS THIS? MY COMPUTER HATES ME!

Apparently, the idea that you can use your computer, tablet, or smartphone to help you with your computer, tablet, or smartphone is such a mind-blowing concept that it hasn’t occurred to people. Or, if it has, the experience is akin to someone teaching themselves how to swim, and having it not go so well the first time.

“Whelp, I damn near drowned, so we’re never going into the water again.”
“Whelp, My answer wasn’t at the top of my google search, so I’m never doing that again.”

This amazes me, because the majority of people are willing to turn their attention to the web for damn near anything else, INCLUDING health inquiries.

“Hey, google, why is this wound oozing, and what can I do about it with a bottle of whiskey and some electrical tape?

You can be talking about using the internet as the first line of action when it comes to potentially life-threatening medical conditions, but heaven forbid you can’t figure out how to take a screen-shot on your new iPhone, because there’s no way the internet can solve THAT particular crisis.

A massive portion of what I do on any given day is use the web to search for specific problems and their solutions, so I know the information is out there. Maybe some of you are scoffing at this saying “Come on, AD, it ain’t that bad. Just yesterday I had to look up how to reconfooble the energy-motron on my latest gizmo to prevent it from overclocking when I have to program the databases for our integrated inventory and ticketing system at my corporation.”

But I guarantee, if this is your reaction, you are the minority. More often than not, if confronted with a technological issue, rather than use technology to solve it, people outsource the issue to “My nephew Gary, he knows about computers.” (Newsflash, Gary googles it) Or, alternately, people will flat-out give up on the issue. When I was in college, one of the residents on my hall had someone screw with his monitor (this is back in the days when we all used desktops) and turned it sideways. Rather than look up how to fix it….he PHYSICALLY ROTATED THE MONITOR AND LAID IT ON ITS SIDE.

I have no idea where this phobia of using computers to fix computers comes from. Perhaps it is a deep-seated horror that if we teach computers to fix themselves, it is one step closer to having them control us down the line. Perhaps the idea simply doesn’t occur to people.

I also know I shouldn’t be mewling about it because as of right now, this IS my bread and butter, and I sort of need you to call me so I can hit F11, or hold the power button down to shut the computer off.

So….disregard what I’ve just said. Call me.

Sleep Gotten, Not Missed- A New Angle.

Does he have it all figured out? Or has he completely lost it?

Does he have it all figured out? Or has he completely lost it?

If you’re one of the three regular readers of this blog, you’ll have noticed by now that life for AD is a nonstop whirwind of activity, and my favorite hobby seems to be “cram as many productive things into a single day as possible.” My jobs and my family keep me running to the point where I count using the restroom as ‘taking a break.’

The reality of it is though, I don’t mind. The work, while constant, is paying off in that there is food in the table, clothes on the boys, and it looks like we’ll even be able to get an actual Christmas Tree again this year, instead of just making a tree shape on the wall out of lights, like I keep telling The Narrator we’re going to do. (Did I just ruin my ‘father of the year’ nomination again? I did, didn’t I?) So, it is paying off. We’re not getting rich, but we’re floating, which after the last couple of years….is a win in my book.

The problem though, is the whole sleeping thing. Two of my three jobs are done mostly after the sun goes down. Ambulance shifts run 12 hours until 6am, so even the most stressful time at the day job could be followed up by a three or four hour call of indeterminate urgency….at three AM. The PD night shifts are supposed to end at eleven, or midnight on weekends…but ask anyone who is in, or is familiar with the field of law enforcement and ask them how often they punch out exactly on time.

Or, Mini-Me, who STILL refuses to sleep properly when put down by my wife, could wake up at two am. Or again at 5:30am as he did last night.

Not to mention, the fire pager could go off at ANY time, day or night, there is no shift schedule there, which is the nature of a volunteer organization.

So, sleep interruptions are not only common, they’re expected.

How exactly does one cope with not having completed a REM cycle in the last seventeen months?

Easy. A shift in psychological outlook. I’ve stopped saying things like “I only got thirty seven minutes of sleep last night” or “I didn’t get to bed until three in the morning.” Instead, I’ve altered the phrasing.

“I managed to get a whole thirty seven minutes of sleep last night after cramming in that call and the baby waking up in the middle of the night!”

“I got to bed at three in the morning, and was able to get an entire four hours of sleep!”

I’m starting to count the rest I DO get as a victory, rather than lament the loss of sleep.

I’m not a brain doctor, or even really all that smart. But there seems to be a large number of people these days who are telling me that if I THINK positive, things will BE positive. The school I work in during the day before I get to go off and do the work I like to do- is literally awash with inspirational posters about positive attitudes, Optimism, and the new food pyramid.
With such a push to make me think positive, why fight it? Usually, I’d bicker with these people on principal alone- pessimism and negativity are generally some of my defining character traits- but I thought I’d take a stab at this whole ‘positivity’ thing….and what better place to start than where the ‘bad’ is the thickest in life right now? Namely….sleep.

Joking aside…it actually seems to be WORKING. My mornings run a bit smoother, and no, I have NOT upped my coffee intake, as much as I would like to. Take last night/this morning for example.

I came off a rather slow night shift, was home by 11:30. In order to keep awake at work, I guzzled a gas-station coffee around 10, so I was still pretty buzzed when I got home. So, while the wife slept blissfully on the couch, I tuned into Top Gear’s “Ambitious but Rubbish” series they’ve got on between seasons on BBC America. We rolled into bed at 1am, whereupon Mini-Me woke up at 1:30, promptly. I went in with him and passed out on the futon in his room until 4am. I went back to bed, until he woke up again at 5:45 and I went in again until my wife came and got us at 6:45.

So, late night shift, caffeine high, two wakeups from the little one…and I still pulled down about four hours. I got my coffee, and headed out the door into cold weather, icy roads, and a list as long as I am tall of things to knock down at the day job.

But I’m not bleary-eyed and slothful this morning. I’ve already tacked down a few tickets, and am working on another as I write this.

Am I finally used to the scheduling biologically? Or is the power of positively spinning the ‘sleep lost’ into ‘sleep won’ stronger than I thought?

Perhaps neither, and I am caressing the outer edges of actual insanity.

I can’t say…but something’s changed, and until the wheels fall off completely, I’m running with it like this is a good thing, and you can’t make me stop. Nobody can. I’m invincible.

Opening Day- A Recap

My plans were hampered a bit by the fact that I had been on call until 6am, so by the time I was able to leave the house, and drive to my area, the sun was already up. Generally, if I don’t need my headlamp to load my rifle, I’m late. Since I was so late, there wasn’t much point in trying to get to the field where I usually set, so I decided to loop around to it from the back.
Not only was I late, but the conditions were terrible. The forest floor had been dusted in snow the day before, and the temperatures the night before had been low enough that every step I took sounded like I was walking on corn flakes. It was so bad, that before I had traveled a hundred yards into the treeline, I kicked something up. It was off to my right, completely obscured by trees, and moving back in the direction I had come. There wasn’t much point trying to follow it, so I moved on.

As I stalked, I began to experience the worst part of hunting…other hunters. At first it was just finding some tracks in the snow. Old, probably those of a bow hunter, and nothing to do with anyone this morning. Then the shots began. If you listen long enough, you’ll catch the cadence of what I like to call the old “NYC 1-2-3.” There will be a shot fired, then a pause, then two more in rapid succession. If you hear that, it means someone missed a deer, and you know they’re an out-of-towner.

Somewhere around 8:30am, I heard one of these songs, inside of a quarter mile from me. By this time I had made my way into a stand of hemlock trees, so I was able to move along a bit more quietly.

Unfortunately, the shots were just the beginning. Not long after, I was sitting on a birch log, resting and listening. To my left I hear movement. No point in getting excited, it was moving too fast with footsteps too close together to be a deer. A second later, I see him. Another hunter, less than two hundred feet from me. He is clad in head-to-toe camoflage and walking almost casually down towards the path where I sat, albeit behind me a little. I watched him come to the path, and look down. He had seen my tracks in the snow, made less than ten minutes ago. Again, I’m sitting on a log, in the middle of the path, with a blaze orange vest and hood on….a few hundred feet away. And he never saw me. He moved off in the direction I had come from. Scary.

I made it to my field and found that it had seen a flurry of activity that morning, and not deer. One set of footprints in the snow seemed to indicate that someone had been lost. He walked in, up to a stone wall, stomped around in a small circle for a bit, then walked back out the way he had come. The heartbreaker was the four wheeler tracks though. They’d been there not long ago, so if there HAD been any deer, they were gone now. My only hope was that the hunter I had seen on the path would push something back to me. I set for a while any way. I was still for maybe ten minutes when I hear more movement. Slow this time. Measured. Another hunter was coming from the bottom of the field. I recognized him, we had crossed paths here before. We waved, met, and talked for a while. He was headed in where I had come from, and I had made up my mind that I was headed OUT.

There were simply too many people out. Since the weather was cold, we all limited our ranges a bit, and between the people I saw, the people I heard, and myself, I could account for no less than four hunters in less than a square mile of woods…all armed with rifles, and at least one of them lacking the situational awareness to see someone in orange a few hundred feet away.

I was home four hours after I went in. All in all, it was a lousy hunt. I saw more people than wildlife, it was cold, I was late, and there was so much foot traffic through there that I considered wearing my bullet resistant vest from work the next time I went out.

I did, of course, enjoy the time out, but not as much as I would have had I been alone. I might have had a nap, or even seen a deer. But, the traffic will subside by next week. Our out of town visitors come up for opening weekend, then for the most part are gone until Thanksgiving, so I’ll have some time.

I had planned on going back out yesterday, but was held up at work Saturday night, not making my bed until nearly 2am. Getting up three hours later to go play in the cold would have been murder.

I’ve got an eye turned to this weekend, which will be much needed. The week ahead is crammed full of activity. Two ambulance shifts, a PD shift, parent-teacher conferences at the school, Court duty…and this doesn’t count the fact that I am working BOTH Saturday and Sunday nights this weekend. But I’ll have the morning hours to go play. We’ll see how these plans pan out.

Don Juan He Ain’t.

The Narrator and I were talking about the future today.

Him: “I want to be a racecar driver when I grow up”

Me: “Good idea. Racecar drivers always manage to find a beautiful woman to marry. Are you going to settle down with some super model right away? Or play the field for a while.?”

Him: “Play the field?”

Me: “Yeah, you know. Play the game for a bit.”

Him: “The game? Mario Kart?”

Me: “…yes.”

The Hunt!

In spite of my hatred for the cold weather, two of my favorite days of the year are this month. Thanksgiving, and opening day of rifle season for big game, which is tomorrow. As my children get excited Christmas Eve and hang stockings and leave cookies for Santa, tonight I will pour over a small mountain of gear, packing, and repacking until it is all just so. I’ll go to bed early and wake up early, trudging through an hour of morning which should be completely illegal.

I will freely admit to not being a very good hunter. I don’t scout out things ahead of time, I don’t bother with drags, scent blockers, or trail cams. For some reason I feel like that is all cheating, a lot like draining a lake to catch fish. The gadgets, gizmos, sprays, and even fancy rifle equipment, to me- takes the sport out of it. My father taught me that hunting is 1% skill, and 99% luck. Being in the right place at the right time, then taking your shot and making it count- that is what is all about.

If I go out and the weather is nice, I’m content to sit under a tree and relax. My mornings in the woods are my ‘me time’ – practically the only time during the year when I have time to myself and have absolutely nothing to do but wait. This is my decompression time. The few days a year I can get out and hunt are exactly what I need to slough off the stress and anxieties that mount the rest of the time. Even if I don’t see another living creature the whole time I’m out there…I always return a little lighter.

The point, to me- is not to go out and kill a deer. If I harvest one, it is a bonus. If I don’t….well….lets just say that I never feel like I’ve wasted the money for a license.

Not only that, and this will sound insane to people who do not hunt, or cannot understand the point of it- one is never so in tune with the world around him than when he is on a good stalk. Every sound, scent, and sensation is magnified a thousand times when you go out into an animal’s own territory and try to best him. I’ve had deer walk within FEET of me while I sat and watched them. Last year, I had a doe close enough to me that I could hear the grass being torn out of the ground as she grazed. Two years ago I was watching a small rodent pick its way through the undergrowth where I sat in the woods. He wasn’t more than twenty feet away. As I watched him, an owl ghosted out of the trees and grabbed him, then vanished back into the limbs above me somewhere, and I never heard a single sound. Not a wing, not a squeak….nothing. If my head had been turned even the slightest, I would have missed it. These are things that even hikers miss, as they move without the need for silence. I sit and observe and take in everything around me, and have witnessed some amazing things in the woods.

So tomorrow morning, I’ll wake up before the sun, and dress in layers. I’ll climb into the car and drive to my spot. I’ll check my gear, and start hiking the mile or so to where I usually hunt just before morning decides to come out and play. I’ll find a place to set and watch a path or a field. I’ll spend an hour or so listening to the early winds rustle branches and throw leaves about the forest floor. Soon the sun will come up and the pale shades of the woods will begin to glow into actual colors. I’ll wait some more. Here and there the silence will be broken by some small animal, or my own body as I shift a bit to get a better view. Then, if I get lucky…..

….actually, by that point, I’ll already have gotten lucky.