I've spent the last few days out in central Oregon, hunting chukar. You probably know by now that I enjoy this--even on days when we see a grand total of three birds, even on days when the wind rips through the canyon at 50 mph, even on days when I'm standing at the bottom of a draw looking up at the climb ahead--but I especially enjoyed this trip. It wasn't the most productive three days, or the most beautiful, and honestly the weather didn't really cooperate. But it was still a great trip, and here's why: camaraderie and timing.
Chukar hunting, by nature, is a mostly solitary pursuit. Even when you find someone else who likes tromping around steep canyons after wily, red-legged devils, you usually fan out over the hillside in a line so as to cover more ground and not cross shots. Your dog is always there, a good and true companion, but they're usually out in front of you working, so it ends up being a lot of alone time. But it makes it that much sweeter when you do get a big pack of people together, to share in the highs and lows (literally) of my favorite classroom. To say at the end of the day, "Can you believe how hard the wind was blowing?" and have someone else know exactly what you mean is a good gift. Two of my uncles were there this time, and one of my closest cousins, and my dad, and I was so glad to have their company in all that big, wild country.
Listen, anyway you slice it, November and December are busy months. Making light in the time of darkness is no easy business, no matter your belief system. But to have carved out these past few days to take a step back--to set aside shopping lists and menus, house prep for guests--was the real gift that will keep on giving. Standing on top of a ridgeline, feeling the kindness of winter sun on my face, I was reminded to make time for peace in the midst of so much madness. To find the quietness in a season of boisterous celebration, to feed my own inner light as much as I feed the lights of those around me. There is so much perspective to be gained from taking a walk, whether it's around the block or miles uphill.
All this to say, it's been a good few days. I'm heading into Christmas rested and restored, ready now for the joy of family and friends. I hope you are too.