Friday, February 3, 2017

On waiting...

© Joshua Stark 2017

I've never been very good at waiting.

Oh sure, I can sit stock-still for a good time in the company of a buck, or scan the skies from a duck blind, or even watch the end of a stick with a line coming out of it into the water.  I could do these things, and things like them, for hours on end.  But that's not really waiting.

Watching and listening are active pursuits. Yes, a person can drift off during these times, but that's all a part of it.

For many hunters, this past Monday marked the first day of Waiting.  Duck hunters (good friends of mine, and family) are especially moved at this time -- memes flew around the social media last weekend talking about the dreaded Wait.  The End of Duck Season.  Questions of, "where were you when it happened?", soft-light photos of the final sunset over the marsh (surely, a tear was wiped away during the shot), and wistful, thoughtful, sometimes poetic eulogies made their rounds.

This is good.  Hunting is filled to the brim with ethical-minded people who absolutely, wildly and passionately love a place and an activity.  Make no mistake, any one of us could get up this morning and go poach a bunch of animals, but the thought never enters our minds.  The end of season is as final and truthful as the sunrise for hunters. And it is wonderful to see (often) grown men wax philosophical and wistful -- men who otherwise think that their joking love for a particular brand of beer is as emotional as they are allowed to get.

It is the end of a season, of a cycle, and we, like millions before us, now wait for that cycle to come round again.  We know that next time, it will be different, yet completely familiar.  Especially this year, we know that the deluge we've received will have altered the hunting grounds in unknown ways.  That is a beautiful thing about hunting: it is ever the same, yet each time, absolutely unique.

And in truth, many of us will take up a rod and reel in short order and hit these swollen waters after fish.  I'm already waiting like a dog in a kennel at the edge of the corn field for the warden to swing open that door and send me shooting out after shad.

In May.

Of course, it's February 3rd.  Which brings me back to my original thought here.

Since I'm no good at waiting, I'm sure to put too many irons in the fire.  In the leatherworking realm, I've gotten completely stuck trying to finish my first, custom-made chef's knife roll for a friend/customer, and I'm therefore backed up on an order fixing another friend/customer's custom-made guitar strap.  I'm not getting any new orders from the internets so I've less of a fire lit under me, and that, coupled with the wide-open nature of a new product sometimes makes it hard to actually just start stitching pieces together.  There's a fear that comes from hovering over a $100 piece of leather with a knife or punch, wondering if you'd measured right.

I picked up an old classic, the oldest, in fact -- I started re-reading the Epic of Gilgamesh, written probably two thousand years before the "Iliad".   I'm also reading "A Sand County Almanac" with my son as part of his reading log homework every night.  I get a chuckle out of writing it down on the check-in report to the Kindergarten teacher, but it has turned into an actual event now.  We are able to talk botany, biology, and even some math as I defined and drew out an example of "diameter."

I've also collected some absolutely beautiful feathers from some of the most gorgeous birds to ever grace the skies: greenwing teal, with breast feathers that resemble shad eyes and sienna-colored mottled neck feathers; northern shovelers who, at first glance, look like 70's game-show host throwbacks with their powder-blue feathers, but up close, show incredible subtleties; and a pintail -- perhaps the most beautiful duck on Earth.  The flank feathers, alone, can set me up for years tying wet flies and salmon flies, something I haven't done in years.

The garden continues its slow decomposition, with the exception of two swiss chard that sprouted up on their own (that stuff is nigh invulnerable).  We received half our annual rainfall in five weeks here, and another week-long rain has just rolled in, with two inches expected over the first two days, which means that there simply is nothing I can do out back, but wait.  The leaky old shed continues to rust my tools, and the 50+mph gusts mean that even my tiny overhang at the back of the house does little to keep things dry.  When we finally start to dry out, there'll be many trips to the dump in my future.  At least the trees haven't blessed us with too many large branches (a redwood tree branch is the equivalent of a regular tree falling sixty feet, horizontally, from the sky).

And my archery side-business is on hold, as well -- no rains + no indoor facility = no teaching.  I am lined up for March, however, which is right around the corner, so I should probably get to organizing and fletching up my arrows, and even looking for a better way to hang my targets.  Ah, the targets!  The rain is also beating down on them...

So, much of what I do now is wait.  Waiting for the rain, waiting for confidence, waiting for the seasons to turn.  Many projects sit half-finished, and I'm not very good at waiting.