The Last Hunt…
He sat staring across the rolling hills of prairie grasses and sagebrush, the warm breeze tousling his dark hair. There was an unfamiliar intensity in his gaze, his face almost hawkish, eyes barely blinking as he scanned the horizon. He was searching, hunting for something, his right hand tightly squeezing the top of a fence post, his left hand at his side clenched into a fist. Through the truck camper window, I sat quietly and watched my father. I would periodically look across the miles of prairie to see if I could find what he was looking for so earnestly. Eventually, he turned to walk back towards the truck and, it was then that I noticed his eyes were brimming with tears and the intensity had given way to sadness.
I have come to believe that it was somewhere in that long moment, looking out over the sun-soaked prairies that my father accepted he was dying. A quiet exchange with the wind and the sun to find the strength he would need to say goodbye to his family and make peace with the life he was given.
There is a little bit of that day I carry with me and as I get older, an understanding that I have fewer sunrises and sunsets ahead of me as I do behind. It has allowed me to live in those moments fully, be present and appreciate each experience as it happens. In the words of Thoreau, I have learned
to “live deliberately” and claim each day as one worth living without regret.
It is in my days in the field hunting that I am reminded the most of my father and that summer afternoon. There is a certain comfort and clarity that comes with being alone in the woods, mountains or prairies as you look across the landscape in search of something that eludes you. It is in these pursuits that I find I am living the most as I connect to earth’s natural rhythms of order and balance, one life will be taken so others may continue.
What I often wonder was if my father saw the loss of his own life as a necessary exchange for his family’s? Was that the thought behind that afternoon’s silent dialogue that was spoken in his tears.
To hunt is to search determinedly for something and by that measure I have spent my entire life searching, hunting for a connection to a father who left my life too soon. For the rest of my life, I will keep looking towards the sunset, searching and scanning the horizon and maybe someday I will see what my father saw and will know the hunt is over.