This could easily be the title of a term paper but for the fortunate fact that I'm 20+ years removed from institutions of higher learning. That's a gift in itself.
Last month I read Walter Isaacson's biography of Albert Einstein, an engaging if not excruciatingly detailed account of the physicist's life and work. Einstein was not overly religious but on several occasions was asked if he believed in God. His response never varied, explaining that there was far too much order in the design of the universe for it to be accidental.
Having never won a Nobel prize, my thoughts carry somewhat less authority, but on occasions such as the Eve of Christmas I make it a point to stop, look, and think about our existence. Those of us who spend time in the natural world are either the smart ones or the fortunate ones or both, and because of this are witness to the beauty and wonder of things that even Einstein might struggle to quantify. Feathers, fields, fins or fur, they all hold the power to make us stop and stare and feel good inside.
If life evolved strictly on a functional basis most of nature would look like college engineering projects. Whoever or whatever created the life on this planet didn't stop when the practical issues were resolved. Camouflage needn't be stunning, after all. Or maybe the miracle is simply that we were created with the ability to see the beauty in all of these things.
If you start feeling that twinge of envy tomorrow morning when your little brother ends up with two more presents than you, step outside and look around. It's a gift too big to wrap and that's a good thing, because no one could afford it anyway. And it's yours.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Saturday, December 15, 2012
I'm quite content to walk for hours beneath tall pines, sometimes gliding, sometimes shuffling, sometimes pressing through grass and briar. Simple, and definitely not sufficient to entertain the masses, which is probably why most days you have the place to yourself. Which is probably another reason it's so hallowed.
Doing this while watching a bird dog practice his craft is more than enough to pass the time. If you're not an enthusiast, watching a dog work is a lot like watching a baseball game; there's a lot going on in plain view that the casual observer never sees. In an odd parallel it's like the hunting instinct in the dog himself - it's hard to instill in someone. You either have it or you don't. Lucky is he who has it.
Late last Saturday afternoon I threw my gear and the dog in the truck and set off for the other side of the state. Arriving well after dark I had a few drinks and some BBQed chicken and climbed in a sleeping bag, only half-pissed that a vocal owl wouldn't give it a rest.
Up with the sun, a shot of coffee and pop tarts and we were off, loblollies overhead and field edges to the side, dog out in front, air still cool enough to ward off a sweat. Thirty minutes or so later the dog stuck his nose toward some shrub at the side of the road and froze. He still has a fetish for field mice and I wasn't expecting much, especially when we got to the shrub and nothing happened. It took my host busting through it to get those birds in the air. The first one out of the back side lined up just perfectly with the bead.
That's how one bird, one single bird out of one solitary covey changes everything. What started as a nice morning turned into a great one, a perfect one, a can't-find-anything-that-would-make-this-better one. No unfinished business here. For the rest of that day there was nothing that could have let the air out of my mood.
And all this over one bird? Standards too low, maybe? Not really. What exactly does it say about a guy who drives three hours at the end of a day, sleeps in a tent cot with his dog, and heads home before lunchtime on the next all for one single bird? It says he's a bird hunter, man. A happy, happy bird hunter.