Pondering It All From 16′ In A Tree

December 5, 2017

From 16 feet up in a lock-on stand, the evening chill sets in from all directions. It sneaks up through my boots, and blows down my collar. It even finds a loose spot under my shirt tail. I scrunch my shoulders and adjust myself on the seat as quietly as I can. My thumb fidgets with the safety on the old Savage, running gently over the familiar, ridged hump.

The final half-hour of daylight is waning fast. Squirrels run rampant through the brush and leaf litter, keeping me at full alert. A cardinal flutters onto a branch above my head. A thrasher (the most perfectly named bird, ever) is digging at a pile of dry oak leaves somewhere just below the stand. I tighten my grip on the rifle. If the deer are going to move, this feels like the time for it.

These are the sounds of evening in the woods, and they’re all as familiar to me as the sound of my own breathing… and just as much a part of my life.  And the thing that crosses my mind, as I’m reveling in it all, is, “how can I write about this in a way I haven’t already done to death?”

I’ve been going hunting for about as long as I can remember.  I have been writing about it for about half that long, on one level or another.  I’ve used up most of the conceits, from the purple to the poetic.  I’ve leveraged assonance and alliteration.  I’ve tried to make it artsy, and I’ve tried to be bluntly practical.  I’ve even tried to sneak in a little moral lesson here and there, and at some points or other, I turned it into a politically tinged essay.

Where has it taken me?

Honestly, back in the day, when the Hog Blog was running strong, I had a glimpse of opportunity.  I got interviewed by CNN, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.  I was even quoted in the draft of a Wildlife Management text book (no idea where that one ended up, and I can’t even remember what it was that I said).

I got to go on a couple of cool hunting trips, and got to play with a bit of cool gear.  I’ve met some really cool people, including a few of my outdoors writing idols, and I’ve made some great friends (and that’s probably the best thing of all).

But I still work for a living, writing training documents and programs for a medical software company.  I haven’t written the book of world-shaking essays, or published my own version of the Great American Novel.  I’m not travelling to read at colleges, or signing books at little, hippie book stores. Reporters from major media outlets aren’t trekking through the woods to my secluded little hermitage to score a sound byte or two.

I’m not really sure that’s what I want out of life anyway, but I guess part of me thought that might be a possible future, you know?  It’s a fun fantasy, like the teenage quarterback dreams of playing in the NFL, or the argumentative little girl dreams of growing up to be a Supreme Court Justice.  I could be the great novelist… the reclusive, slightly eccentric writer who they’ll all talk about after I’m dead.

But when it comes to it, I realize (I think) that I write for the same reason that I hunt.  It feels good.  It’s my nature.  There’s a sort of grounding liberation to it.  At any minute, maybe that monarch of the woods will walk in front of my bow, or just the right set of words will flow into my head that makes the music play.  But the joy comes from the search… from the hunt.  It’s not the meat in the freezer or the words on the page that drive me.  It’s the feeling that comes with trying to put it there.

A tree stand is a great place for contemplation, but it’s a little tricky to write up here.



7 Responses to “Pondering It All From 16′ In A Tree”

  1. Pondering It All From 16? In A Tree | on December 5th, 2017 23:43

    […] Pondering It All From 16? In A Tree […]

  2. Kurt on December 6th, 2017 10:03

    Hi Phillip, just a short note to let you know that I enjoy your writing and hope that you continue to find satisfaction being a wordsmith. Please keep writing on your hunting adventures – I cannot hunt this year and your stories allow me to hunt through you vicariously. Have a blessed holiday season and a Merry Christmas!

  3. Steve m Langdon on December 6th, 2017 14:42

    Your a good writer. I like your stories and opinions.
    Friend and I just wrapped up the first book I ever wrote in. I actually did not write as much as my friend but my part felt good and was a lot more satisfying than I thought it would be.
    I look forward to reading your thoughts in the future!

  4. Aaron on December 6th, 2017 18:18

    Hi Phillip,
    I have been reading your blog for a few years now and I am glad you are back at it. Just wanted to say I enjoy your writing and thoughts.

  5. Phillip on December 7th, 2017 06:14

    Wow, fellas, thanks!

    I’ll be honest. I really didn’t think anyone except one or two close friends and family were even still paying attention to this thing.

    Kurt, sorry to hear you can’t hunt this year. Hope everything is OK, and that you’ll be back to it soon! Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    Steve and Aaron, I appreciate the kind words, and while I don’t expect to start blogging daily again, I have felt the urge to start putting my voice back out into the world.

  6. Mike C on December 25th, 2017 07:28

    Short and sweet: I ‘m back again to enjoy your articles after some time away.
    Merry Xmas to you and your family.

  7. Phillip on December 27th, 2017 06:56

    Good to hear from you, Mike… Hope yours was a Merry Christmas, and here’s to a happy new year!