It was 14 degrees when I stepped out the door this morning. Gray. Windy. But I went out anyway. I haven’t been having much luck this deer season. I’ve spent a lot of time seeing nothing and the few times I did see deer, I made rookie mistakes that blew my opportunities. It’s not been going well. This was an especially good morning to be in bed or on the couch with a cup of coffee. But the deer aren’t in my bedroom or my living room, they’re outside. So that’s where I went.
I’ve had a lot going on lately. Things. Kid things. Work things. Scheduling things. Always things. Sometimes I go into the woods to be away from these things. Often I go out to the woods thinking I’m stepping away from these things but often find myself better able to resolve them without noise and distractions. In the clarity of silence and trees I’ll often find a solution dangling right before me or the peace of acceptance that things are what they are or the fortitude to slog through them.
This morning was no different. I was sitting in the cold, the gray and the wind staring off into the trees but not really seeing anything before me at all. I was working problems over the way might work over a Rubik’s cube, carefully analyzing from each angle, rolling it around, trying out conceptual solutions before I committed to them. It was a perfect setting for it, really. My hands in my pockets, my chin buried in my jacket collar and an empty gray pallet on which to lay my thoughts.
But then my pallet changed. In a period of 3 or 4 seconds, barely perceptibly, the gray forest lit into an orange hue the way theater lights come up after a show. I glanced around quickly to see if maybe I was just dozing off or getting light headed, but it was happening all around me. I turned to my left and the sun, just peaking over the mountains, found a spot of translucence in the opaque gunmetal clouds. Then, as if on cue, while I was making sense of the the diversion to the southeast I was ambushed by a fierce and sudden snow squall driven in by the wind from the northwest. My line of sight through the woods was obscured in horizontal white lines like interference on an old TV screen. Around me, individual flakes danced and eddied in the slipstream of a tree and a rock and me between, bathed in pinkish orange light.
I leaned back, gazed outward and took it all in. The light, now brighter. The wind, now slowing. The snow, swirling, bobbing up, then dropping. It was all so stunningly beautiful that I found myself getting emotionally overwhelmed and choked up. It was peace. A peace I rarely encounter. A peace I wish you could have been there to see and feel and be in but a peace I could only be in alone. And in that peace, my mind now vacant, a strange thought had room to enter. I found myself thinking, hoping, that at the end of my life (which, by the way, I hope is a long way off), when my days are over, my time up, I hoped that this is what it would be like. It felt like this is what it should be like. It seemed like each of us is owed that if we’re owed anything at all.
It all lasted for less than 10 minutes and then it ended suddenly. The last of the snow made it’s way to the leaf-covered ground. The clouds pushed on and took back their territory in front of the sun. The light left. The gray returned. And it was cold again. Just cold. My hands hurt. I had another 45 minutes at my disposal, but I left anyway. There didn’t really seem to be a reason to say. In hindsight, it was what I’d come for and now that I had it. There was no sense in staying longer.