When we get back to the parking lot, the two hunters we started the day with are at their pick-up truck, shedding layers and tucking birds away before the drive back home. How'd you do, my Dad asks them. I am only half paying attention, because I didn't recognize them right away, now that we're in the bright light of day, and because I'm already thinking about getting back to work. It's the middle of the week, and I'm playing hooky. These guys are too, apparently. He tells us they got one bird and missed two, or maybe the other way around, and then he stops for a minute and looks at the sky. But man, he says, these guys at work don't know what they're missing--the colors, the textures in the field...he trails off. Isn't it all so beautiful? Makes you feel lucky to be out here.
I think about this guy all day, rolling his deep appreciation for a stolen morning outside around in my mind, through e-mails and two meetings, through my commute home. It surprised me--not that he thought it, because that's what I was thinking too--but that he told us, standing there in the parking lot. That he spoke it out loud, instead of sticking to small talk. My Dad mentions it in the car--what did he say? Colors and textures?--it's funny that it stuck out to both of us. A little sad, too. I can't help but think it's a symptom of modernity, our surface level interactions online bleeding into how we interact in person.
And mostly because he was right, about all of it and then some, but none of us had the words or the nerve to say it out loud. The color, the textures. The light, the sound. We're all out hunting on that island, but getting--I think--so much more than birds. We go out one morning in the rain and are reminded of the persistent power of water, watching as the land transforms before our eyes, our layers shedding diamonds until my jacket is black with wet and my feet soaked to the bone. The sunflowers drop their heads under the weight of it, the fields turn from neat rows to swamps, the birds freeze and crouch in blackberries and corn, refusing to fly. We walk one morning through the last vestiges of night, only to have the gray light of dawn reveal thick fog hanging low over the land. we walk through it anyway, the air like velvet, and watch as the sun grows in strength and burns through to us on the ground. We hear sand pipers overhead, screeching their raucous song, we listen to the ducks whistle past, we find the remnants of hawk meals spread in the grass. We are outwitted by some birds, and outwit others, and some are for the dogs.
The morning we saw the two hunters shaped up to be a hot September day--cool in the morning, but shimmering at sunrise with the promise of heat to come. A bluebird sky unrolled above us while we walked, and I could feel the day settle into me and come to rest down deep in my chest--a kind of humming contentment that comes only with the perfect combination of purpose and a lot of horizon.
I'm trying always to say what it is, to tell the truth, here--and hope then that someone will read it, and know exactly what I mean. But I'm beginning to see that there's something to be said for giving a voice to the color and texture, to start a conversation. To connect better with people who love the same land I do, who hunt the same birds. To create--or maybe just find--my community.