23 Feb 2015
Laine H. tells this story:
When I was a kid of about 12 or 13, my family and I lived in rural north Alabama. We had about 3 acres surrounded by fields and second growth scrub forest—great for us boys to run around exploring in.
I had lobbied for a rifle to learn to shoot and to hunt with. My dad finally got me an old Remington .22 caliber tube feed, bolt action rifle and started to teach me about gun safety and shooting. I would get to practice after school; that would look like setting up a target: a chuck of split wood with something in front of it to aim at. The goal was to eventually cut matches in half. I would get a couple of shots then walk to the target, see where the shots had gone and walk back, adjust and repeat: a lot of walking back and forth through the woods until I was authorized to go “hunting”.
Squirrels were the “game” for the hunt. Unlike hunting many “beasts” where you track them down, with squirrels the best bet is to figure out where the squirrels go, then wait for them: being as still and silent as possible, being as observant as you can be. After School I’d take my gun and troop off into the woods trying to figure out what paths squirrels might take, find a place to sit, wait and watch. It was one of the first times I remember sitting alone, quietly, and as attentively as humanly possible for me. The sounds of the forest, the movement of the various animals and birds, the colors of the trees, caterpillars, moss: everything around me was amazing in great detail!
Sometimes I’d even pick up on some squirrels coming my way, though in fact I rarely shot any of them. I’d get fascinated with their playing, climbing, and flying through the air. While I did bring home a few, most times I just spent quietly connecting with nature honing my observational skills. Now I realize how much difference that has made in my life, in my ability to observe, intuit and understand what is happening around me whether in “nature” or walking the wilds of New York City.