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Matt Liere: Hunting can distract from life’s rough patches

There’s something soothing about collecting one’s thoughts from a  hunting blind. (Eli Francovich / The Spokesman-Review)
There’s something soothing about collecting one’s thoughts from a hunting blind. (Eli Francovich / The Spokesman-Review)
By Matt Liere For The Spokesman-Review

I ran into an old friend at an arena hockey game recently, during playoffs, and invited him to hunt turkeys at my place in late April.

I hope he takes me up on it. He’s getting divorced, is between jobs, and missing his kids dearly. All this I discovered in the course of a 1-minute conversation.

It’s a rough spot to be in, I know, because I’ve been there, done that. I could see it in his face, the pain and uncertainty mixed with confusion, perhaps a little guilt, wrapped up hiding behind a false smile and repeated self-assurances that he was fine. I knew assuredly he was not.

I’m not sure what I expect will happen, but if my instincts are correct, there will be a point, sitting in the blind, those depressing, clouded thoughts will slowly dissolve, allowing a little clarity to come rushing back in. Eastern mystics claim to achieve a similar state of awareness using breathing, candles and chants, but I’ve found climbing into a blind of dead sticks and leafy camouflage is equally effective. It’s not a fix for the root problems by any means, but it can reveal a different perspective and serve as a distraction to the immediate crisis at hand.

The magical silence of the early morning coaxes the mind to quiet, leaving the wonders of nature to take center stage. The sun begins its slow climb over the backside of the mountain, painting the sky with glorious streaks of color before finally peeking over the top, and the songbirds find their morning voice, adding soundtrack to the developing scene.

Whistling wings from a pair of mallards cross behind the blind from left to right, skillfully dodging their way through treetops toward the hollow in the cattail pond below. The Canadian couple is already there, early risers, honking displeasure from the bank as the incoming pair interrupts an intimate breakfast with a flashy touchdown, skimming the calm surface to begin the day anew.

If it plays out as I hope, my friend will begin a transition, too, making that slow climb over the tangled mountain of despair to find hope in the light of a new day. He might find himself comfortably relaxed, despite the always present butt-rock, enough so to notice the busy field mice scurrying about his legs, darting in and out a network of earthy tunnels, mouthing tufts of grass and feathers to build subterranean homes.

Such activity also captures the attention of hawks and eagles, stealthily waiting in the branches above for an ambitious, yet foolish, mouse to chance the open ground for a particularly attractive nest piece.

Should he be as lucky as I once was, he might host a first-light stalk by a hungry coyote, carefully creeping up on the hen decoy set out to attract a mate. We made eye contact simultaneously and froze, realizing we were both where we shouldn’t be together, briefly frozen in time, sharing the same space and common goals. A slight shift induced by a butt-rock was enough to break the fleeting bond, and in a flash, she was gone.

I’ve spruced up a particularly nice spot for my friend to sit next week should he decide to accept my offer. I’ve cut the brush in front, added some foliage to the framework, and pried most of the rocks from the ground. Blind therapy might seem an odd way to deal with life, but sometimes hunting means looking for something other than game to put in your bag. I wish him luck.

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