Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Our Brothers Keepers - On Shields and Swords

Frank, what do you know? It's you and me again tonight.
 The rough riders, tearing up the streets, just like old times.
 This old bus is a warrior, Frank. I have tried to kill her, but she will not die.
 I have a great respect for that.
 Tom Wall - Bringing Out the Dead

An elderly man sits in front of a cold television set, the house is warm, but silent this day. There are plenty of homemade meals, frozen and put carefully away and labeled, things his daughter made for him, on hand. But tonight, he just wanted some canned chicken  soup and a generous  drop of amber liquid, something familiar and warm for his soul.

Outside the wind blows, some tattered leaves still clinging to barren limbs as fiercely as flags. Inside, the phone rings, it's the neighbors, a couple of "kids in their 60's", as he calls them, calling to check up on him across the little white brick fence.  For they'd not seen anyone leave the house for a walk in a couple of days. Beyond the simple expression of Christian caring, they were concerned. He was fine.

He was glad they noticed.
His son is sleeping, even early in the day, taking in little nourishment, but that which is needed for the pain. The two of them have had some adventures, when his son moved in after the chemo was done.   It was a a brief period of endless times, tearing up the streets, if only in the form of a road trip or two, a huge bottle of pickled herring, a six pack and a trip to the ER because someone got bad acid reflux.  Good times, times winding down, he think as he watches his son sleep most of the day, as if the heavens forgot to rewind him.

Tonight, the wheels are silent and he's alone with his thoughts and the past, hoping the phone will ring.  It would be his daughter, who lives so far away, who checks on him daily and visits when she has days off that allow for a quick flight out there and back.

He thinks of her, not as a grown woman, but always as that little auburn haired child who would sit on the couch for hours.  Her companions were the books she coveted, books that she did not so much simply love, but crave like an addict, the fire that flowed from the writers mind through fingertips to be burnt upon the page, then doused with the water of laughter or tears, and wrung out again.  He always said there was no interrupting her when she was like that, the house could burn down around her as she embraced the words among the flames.  She remembers him saying  "She'll  love everything that hard.  That will be both her blessing and her curse".  Why does she remember those words now?

He settles down as he waits for her call.
She, in turn, is glad he has neighbor's that check on him, and a son that is close by, even as he is fading.  He is a man that's already outlived a child and two wives, been part of a Great War and watched his friends die, limping back from battle in an aircraft punctuated with German greetings.  He's as tough as some hardy winter plant that can bloom under the heel of snow, unaware of the heart's unceasing combat with its own thinning blood

My next door neighbor at the crash pad is a police officer. I have his phone number, he has mine.  He's a fine young man with a strong, beautiful wife and two kids. He's a born protector.  If anything looks "off" at either of our homes, we would check. If Barkley was barking at length for no reason, if a door or window that's normally closed is open, little things, he would call me.  That's not being intrusive, that's being smart.

As I drove home from work tonight, I saw a teenager, a cute little thing, walking along the side of the road in a very isolated area, listening to tunes from the little buds in her ears, head down. I wanted to stop the truck and say "do you know how EASY it would be to snatch you off the road", not that it would change her behavior.  Some people don't have to even be snatched, they walk right into their fate with an apology on their lips. Ted Bundy lured women to their death with a cast on his arm and a shy smile, the women feeling too guilty not to help out this poor guy and they were brutalized and died for their efforts.
We are so afraid of getting into any one's business or even looking closely at our own, that we often fail to look around us, to watch for threat, even as we appreciate all the good that is still around us. Tensions builds, darkness threatens, yet there will always be someone, head down, not noticing , with a "lalalalala". It's scary when I see that in a young woman, prey for so many. It's even scarier when I see it in those, that by their power, are supposed to make things safer so when I am ready and willing to defend myself, it's against a manageable target.

It wasn't always this way. In my Dad's time, a nation attacked us without warning and we dropped a very large atomic bomb on them. Today, we apologize profusely to those who wish to kill us, closing the shutters so we don't see rogue nations continue to build their nuclear capability. We close our mouths, stopping our protests before they become sound.

Not all of us are like that, we watch, we are concerned and we're not afraid to speak up about it. I think of this blog community, many of you here that I have met, thousands I have not. Yet when a blog goes silent, usually because someone did the ring of salt wrong when setting up their new blogger template, someone always speaks up, checks with others to make sure they are OK. Others offer help if the issue IS technical; well wishes for the new parents, condolences for our losses, support during illness. Some cash in a tip jar for an unexpected emergency in a working family.  It is rituals from those who remember the divinity of rituals, a few minutes each day we rescue each other deep in the middle of an anonymous web.  When Barkley died, you all were my daily smile, here in this kitchen of sorrow, the pots all too full.

We read the news, we surf the web, just as we walk the streets, motion, stopping, pausing, looking, the whole world moving with the click of a heel, the click of a mouse, so much dependent on how quickly we come into view and move out again, how much we really are aware of in that moment. But we watch, we listen, we think, we prepare to survive, we prepare to defend. We are less strangers than you think, this tribe of bloggers.
Home from work tonight, I go for a short run, sweatpants and dark blue Citadel sweatshirt, trying to work on getting the knee back 100% and then some  It's a work in progress, moving always, finding the composition of lift and motion that will propel me forward, help me get past  pain that is more than a knee, scanning the horizon for anything unusual, gun on my hip under my shirt. I live in a little town some miles from the big city but close enough we have to be vigilant. It's relatively quiet, with some nice houses, a young neighbor I recognize walking a lab, his wife, pushing a stroller. But there are still a few homes that look like the only lab that have is of the meth variety. I see an older neighbor and stop and ask her about her grandchild, she asks about my brother and tells me she misses seeing Barkley.  I thank her, small connections, small reassurances.

I see someone on the bike trail that goes past my road. I recognize her, a city clerk, another volunteer at the food kitchen. She tells me of the volunteer in our group, a working single Mom that didn't show up last time, an illness in the family with an elderly parent that lives with them. I know that person's first name but that is about it. We make arrangements to meet up with some containers of homemade suppers to take over to her as the young lady on the bike knows the woman's address. I don't know her last name, I don't need to, I just know she is a hard worker and needs a little help.

We wave goodbye, and I head out into the open area. I see a movement off in the brush. Dog? Coyote? Now I knew I was in no danger from the coyote or his brethren, but I was in his world. To my eyes, his world was dark, every noise I make a threat or a promise. Where he could see, I was blind, where he could smell, my senses were mute. What he could hear eluded me completely. What drew him in, was as old as time and as uncaring. While I had intellect and size he had the grimness of infallibility, instincts honed through generations of survival in an ever dangerous land. Despite the scientific part of my brain telling me that logically I was in no danger there are primal forebodings that stir softly in our blood. Times, despite logic, that cause a less than subliminal sense of something lurking, watching. Something that stalks quietly, closer to our world than we want.
I see a young man I don't recognize, coming from the direction of town I tend to avoid. His eyes are binge drinking slits, downcast, his hands in his pockets, his whole movement, one of coiled tension and anger, at his parents, at life, who knows. I clear my throat and make eye contact and move across the street towards the gleam of a light in a window, walking head up, hand ready, determined in my movements, even if I still have a bit of a limp when I'm tired.  He moves away and past, paying as little attention to me as he does his own grooming, not knowing that had he moved with the intention of harm, I would have dropped the whole world on him.

I care, for people, for friends, even for strangers who, having lived lives of work and honor, just need a little support. And, as Dad surmised, I love deeply.  But I have a limited capacity for empathy for scavengers and predators, having seen in my travels around the world, some absolute realities beyond the billboard of illusion that the socially and politically naive never imagine.
Arriving back home, I open the garage door, expecting to hear the hiss and click of claws on the tile inside, missing that tremendous WOOF! that was Barkley ready to protect his home from burglars looking to harm either Mom or that 2 pounds of Amish bacon in the freezer. But the house is silent, and I turn on the TV, just to hear some signs of life.  There's nothing that's good news. There are parents grieving, and, on another channel,  Iran's fearless leader, spouting threats of attack for the world's sanctions even while proclaiming his lack of intent to use his nuclear capability for anything other than good. Words stated with fixed and deadening smile.

Maybe I am too cynical. Maybe we should apologize, maybe we should just care more. Send the man some love, a card, a candy gram, a really big bomb.

As I  go out to close the garage door.  I hear a comforting  sound. It's a familiar cop car pulling in to our shared driveway, little kids inside the house, squealing like tires, anxious to greet Dad. I smile and wave , even as I make sure the door is down and  secure before I go in.
Back home out West, someone is knocking on my Dad's door, with food, with care, making sure he's not alone tonight. He looks through the peephole, unlocks the door and opens his home and his heart, all that is left to him. In his closet is a military uniform, on his porch an American flag, within his reach, a shotgun that has fed and protected him for over 75 years. On the table, a photo of a tiny spitfire of a woman, years before her bones shrank inwardly, her mind and her flesh growing sparse in those last days that he never ever, left her side.

I go inside my own home, setting down on the table my own sword; one in the form of .45 acp, dropping the badge in my pocket on the table; my shield, one that grants access to grief but does not protect me from sorrow.

I go inside and pull out a photo that's not on display, someone in dark blue uniform, not here, but always present.  But I feel comfort in knowing, as I sit in this place alone tonight, that for now, this moment, our world is quiet. There's a certain warmth in knowing that someone you love is safe and well, even if they do not need to be present for that feeling to exist, the feeling, a wet finger on a burning wick, hot, but not scorching, possessing a slow deep solidity of heat that only the tragedy of time's cessation would truly extinguish.

We love with great depth, we defend with great pride, we protect with a generation's honor, even as we always keep our guard up, our eyes open equally to worry and wonder.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hair of the Dog - Scotch Night with Cù Bòcan

It was that time of the month again, Scotch Night.  A ritual among some flying squirrels I know, of which I get to share a bit of surreptitious fun if only with a quick toast or two and a cheap phone camera.

Monday's selection was as above  The group overall preferred the  Deanston  I've found it jut a tad too sweet for my taste, but overall, a very nice choice.  Of the four the guys selected, I like the Benriach, a wonderful inexpensive scotch for the new palate, nice, but more complex then some of the others in it's age and price group that are more well known names. The little bit of almond (marzipan?) undertone is a surprise along with the peat.

But it's always fun to try new ones, or old ones that seemed too expensive, until one day you realized you don't work your rear off and have people occasionally try and shoot at you, just to drink cheap hooch.

This is a group with some history.  This is a group that knows what's important.  Duty, honor and a really good scotch.
The one that got the most attention for the Monday Night Scotch Club, if only for the Donnie Darko style ghost dog on the bottle and it's somewhat unique original Twitter launch (seriously?  Twitter?) was the Cù Bòcan from the distillers Tomatin.  It gets its name  from the legend of a spectral dog, Cù Bòcan, who has haunted that Highland village for many years, his legend embellished by his increasing fractious behavior (I'd be cranky too if a peated beverage was only made one week a year).

Sightings are rare, once in a generation, it is said, and always terrifying. A distillery worker, out walking late, was once relentlessly pursued by the formidable black beast, steam spiraling from flared nostrils, fangs showing against a maw, dark as spilled blood, only to have the creature dissolve before his eyes, as he reached out a trembling hand in mercy.  He stood there, the taste of ash on his tongue, as all that was left was but a vacuum of  bitten silence as a dark cloud of smoke disappeared across the moorland.

I wish the beverage drew me in as well as the tale.   It's perhaps just showing it's youth, and at 8 years old, I'd be  happy to try it again in a couple of years  But it's very sharp citrus, almost too sharp, at first, though tempered with a bit of ginger.  Then there is the initial promise of burned love letters, drying down to overcooked popcorn and peppered ash. The feel on the tongue was the butter intended for the popcorn.  It wasn't bad, but for lack of better description, the Scotch Club simply labeled this one as "Chewy and Oily". 

The Hound of the Baskerviles, it wasn't.

Still we'll see how that old dog matures, it might be a nice surprise in a couple of years as the distiller was quite candid when they stated in the launch that the first batch was only 18,000 bottles and the peated element is only aged 8 years, even if in some nice virgin oak, bourbon and sherry casks. 

But I admit, I was suckered in by the ghostly dog story. What is it about a ghost story that draws one in? Few people truly believe that headless ghosts haunt Celtic castles, that restless spirits chase the shadows in every abandoned old farmhouse. Most of us go through life, not observing what was not meant to be observed.

But sitting in a darkening room, the light dancing on a glass bottle or two, the taste of smoke and the moors on one's tongue, one can't help but summon up the genuine wonder for those things that are never truly explained. I believe that despite our outward desire for explanation and logic, most members of the public would rather tell stories of haunted trestles than listen to a litany of logic.
For despite our modern conveniences, our science and technology, can we not be surprised that modern man still feels that shadowed belief in spirits, haunting those places in which they were once so affected, when we ourselves scarcely separate ourselves from past lives and past longing, ever hovering over bygone times and all their emotions, in late night, darkened hours, lingering in the past places in which we were loved. Hoping in the dark misty hills of our hearts, we will remember and be remembered.

For despite our technology, we are still dreamers. Certainly I know one woman that is, even if she is still a big kid at heart.

As Shakespeare said.: We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

Whether our dreams are that of coherent order and forensic logic or haunting memory of those places we wish we could revisit, I can't help but think just how small my being is. How infinitesimal within the world's workings, the grand chaotic design. As the wind picks up a howl, across open land,, I'll light a small lamp.  For suddenly, I feel very insignificant. Insignificant and small, as moonlight flits amongst the shroud of tree branches, the wind tapping on the window like a ghostly finger, the night but one last lamenting kiss.
Off in the distance, comes the keening howl of a dog.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Wisdom That Should Appy To Everything We Do

Every man who runs a traction engine ought to know something of the magnitude of the force he is working with. 
He ought to know something about the strength of materials in his boiler and engine. He ought to know the exact construction of every part of his machine.
He ought to know how to make all the necessary repairs and make all necessary adjustments and he ought to be familiar with the scientific laws governing every operation of an engine or any of its parts.
-Steam Engine Guide, by Professor P.S. Rose

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Time to Make the Fastnachts

In Pamplona, there is the Running of the Bulls, but in England there is the slightly less lethal Running with the Stack.

This Running with the Stack (actually known as Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day)dates from medieval times, originally celebrated by coveys of apron-clad women racing each other through the streets flipping flapjacks high in the air at least three times as they head for the finish line at the church door.

The vicar decided the winner and awarded the prize, a prayer book. The church bell then signaled the start of this Shrove Tuesday festival, which originated to use up all the butter and eggs before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, with it's look inward and abstinence from meat and other rich foods  It was a fitting end to cold dreary February, a month so dull the Romans only gave it 28 days
One popular pre Lenten dish of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is the Beignet.  It's good, but in the Range household the favorite pre Lent treat is German mashed potato based pastries, fried in deep fat and called Fastnachts (pronounced Fosh-knock and meaning Eve of the Fast).

The recipes and spelling of the dish may vary slightly but you do NOT want to call them donuts in Pennsylvania  Deitsch country. They may or may not have a hole or a slit in the center, but I add one, so my slightly larger sized ones cook completely in the center. But in holding with tradition, they are cut into squares, to represent the four gospels in the Bible.
Traditionally, on Monday, the day before Fastnacht, dough was put out in straw baskets for raising, then cut in squares and deep-fried in fat, not baked. Served with hot coffee at breakfast on Tuesday, the popular way to eat your Fastnacht was to split it in half and spread with honey.  Today, they're typically glazed and/or sugared. You will see many of them for sale in Pennsylvania, with many of the authentic Fastnachts made by many non-profit organizations (such as a number of Pennsylvania fire companies.)  Sure you can get a commercially made imitation at some stores, but none will be as good as those fire company ones, or those made from scratch at home, the smell as they fry banishing the last of  the winter blues and any loitering cardiologists.

was born and raised in Pennsylvania. While not in the "heart" of Pennsylvania Dutch country or Amish farms, near enough to know and follow the traditions of the land.
"Fasnacht Day," (pronounced Fosh-knock) more properly just called "Fasnacht," is also known as Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Literally translated, it means Fast Night.
Fasnacht is the established beginning of the 40 days of fasting during Lent - which officially begins on Wednesday, Ash Wednesday to be exact. It is a folk tradition dating to the Middle Ages, a Catholic custom that has survived in mostly Protestant Pennsylvania.
Traditionally, on Monday, the day before Fasnacht, dough was put out in straw baskets for raising, then cut in squares and deep-fried in fat, not baked. Served with hot coffee at breakfast on Tuesday, the popular way to eat your Fasnacht was to split it in half and spread with honey. (Today they often come coated with confectioners? sugar.)
In the old days, this was a chance for everyone to gorge on good doughnuts without reprise, for the lean days of Lent and fasting would now follow. The making of fasnachts helped use up fat and sugar prior to the fasting days of Lent.
But this year, that was a week in which there was no celebrating in my household, and they got put aside, until today. With an early morning call out, little sleep and fatigue, it was the perfect Post Lent Sunday Snack on my return (as the beer was remaining in the fridge for the rest of Lent).

However,  I avoided running, as a Scandahoovian Shieldmaiden with a plateful of hot fried Fastnachts is not a sight for amateurs.
Pennsylvania  Fastnachts

1 cup sugar
1 cup mashed potato (don't add anything to it, just the potatoes)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup lard
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
a pinch of Cardamom  (Optional)
2 packs yeast
1/2 cup warm water (use the warm potato water) plus 1/2 cup milk
5 cups flour

Cook 2-3 peeled chunked potatoes in water until soft.  Set aside potato water. Lightly mash potato and measure out 1 cup, reserving any leftover for another use.

Heat milk until scalded (just bubbling around the edges) and add cooled potato water (you want the mixture warm but not hot).

Add yeast to the warm liquid and stir until dissolved. 

Cream the sugar, butter and lard, and then beat that into the mashed potatoes on low, adding in eggs, salt, vanilla and nutmeg. Beat in yeast mixture on medium until smooth and then, with a wooden spoon, beat in roughly 3 cups of  the flour  Dump out onto a floured surface and knead in as much of the remaining flour as it takes (or not) so the dough is not sticky. Put in lightly greased bowl, cover with cloth and let rise until doubled.  Once doubled, roll out dough 1/2 inch thick, cut into squares and lay out on waxed paper about 2 inches apart and cover with a thin, clean towel.  Let raise in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour)

Heat additional lard  (you want it about 4 inches deep) to 365 degrees F. and gently add the Fastnachts to the hot fat with a wire spoon, so they do not spatter. Fry until golden brown on both side, turning once. Drain on paper towel and brush with a glaze made of 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 Tbsp of milk and a small splash of vanilla.  When cool enough to handle, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar and serve. Makes a couple dozen large ones (and there might be some left for my team in the morning)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Where the Trinity is Intact

Last night was going to be a night out with friends, people with whom I share a lot of history and stories. After saying good night to Partner, out saving the day on the other side of the planet, I got as dressed up as much as is "dressed up" for me, in blue jeans and a brand new white silk shirt.  I managed to look quite elegant, I thought, seated at a nice quiet table in the corner of the pub.  I have back up and a designated driver.  I don't have to be on duty tomorrow.  I'm simply a dot, awaiting an adult beverage. As always, I had my eyes towards the doorway, backup available.  But like anything we never imagine, it came at me when I least expected it, my six foot two, 240 pounds of muscled and well armed backup unable to do anything but look on . . . as the world's biggest glass of red wine flew off the approaching waitresses' tray.

Merlot Missile lock-on, aimed right at the center of my new blouse.  

SPLOSH! I looked like someone on  the losing side on Game of Thrones.  My friend PA commandeers some extra towels and club soda, as I attempted to clean up, while half the restaurant suddenly seemed to gather round. Many apologies and some semblance of order later, our other friend arrived to be asked by the waitress "what would you like to drink?" I couldn't help but mutter, like a ventriloquist, "I'll have what she's wearing".

But you know, it wasn't going to ruin my dinner, as wine stains not withstanding, it was going to be an evening of good food and firearm tales.  It was the trinity of three friends, much history, together, safe and intact; something so special because it is never guaranteed.  We look at photos of our younger selves with a "I was in Bosnia when you took that", or "I was in Iraq".  The stories, then told, reminding us just how many thousands of weathered doors we've passed through, some a little more forcefully than others, and all of the rain and ice and deserts harsh heat our skin witnessed to get here, tonight, the flesh in one piece.
But too soon, it was time to go home, helping house guests get packed to head back east in the morning.  I bustled around, trying to forestall that moment when they said goodbye, taking in that big gulp of air as I looked at their gear, at the orange dog collar on the dresser, so still, so silent. One last breath, to hold me in the airless days ahead.

Still, with moments of laughter, embarrassment and sometimes tears, I wouldn't trade such moments for anything.

Look at what is precious to you, those people, those things that you trust your life and your heart with.  Is it something new and perfect? Is it something cheap and fleeting? No, it is likely to have a bit of wear and perhaps a small ding, there because it had strength to withstand such things.
If you are smart, you look past the dust and the scars as you gather that which is important to you around you. It's that giving over to our gut feeling as to the validity of something or someone, that often reaps the most reward. Look in your gun safe. Is what you treasure the newest or the shiniest? That which you prize the most may be that firearm for which the number of deer that had fallen before it were legion,. Your most treasured possession, a weapon in which you knew that the fierce heat of its holding, there in the blaze of a new autumn, would renew you better than that plastic fake camo looking one.

Look at the world around you, to that which has withstood time, things carefully tended. Stop at the gun show and talk to that 80 year old veteran about something more than the price of his brass. Chances are he won't just regale you with stories of the war, no riposte of sweaty storytelling of gunfire and noise which all war stories are composed of, no ragged lines of gaunt infantry beneath the tattered flags of courage. No, what he will tell you quietly, is simple This was my gun, it served me well, but I'm willing to sell it. Let me tell you about it. And what stories it can tell.
It was there in the case at the gun store, so many years ago, an old Belgium Browning 20 gauge. My first hunting firearm. I'd trained on the Daisy and up, under my LEO parents watchful eyes, but I was ready for something with more weight, more depth, something that was mine. It was older than me, older than my parents, perhaps, lovingly cared for and then up for sale, sitting forlorn in a locked case. Why? A death in the family, a household strapped and the only source of food the giving up of things carefully tended?

The gun had a long history of care, you could see it in the fine veneered finish the carefully tended and lubricated workings. Somebody deeply cared for this piece for more than one generation. But the gun could not answer from its prison of glass, the ghost of its presence simply asking "why".
It was a cold fall morning, a few months later. Across the ditch line came a young whitetail buck.  He moved slowly, without the inborn caution yet tested by a fading gout of black powder smoke. I watched the Browning elongate, rising to become a round spot against the light brown spot of a hearts location, a period on a page soon to be red.

To an outside observer, I would have appeared almost motionless.  But there is great activity in being the observer from above, standing in a stillness that smells of grass, breathing in so many scents in damp warm air. Sweat, blood and a flower that only blooms in the dark, the wind so scant it's like breath on a mirror. Each smell blended yet distinct, always overlaid with the copper tang of life spilled. The air hums along to the earths quiet as all I see, smell and feel forms into a substance I can almost feel on my flesh, capturing it, recording it there in the stillness. The truth is often still, inarticulate, not knowing it is the truth.

As my finger bent towards firing, he looked up for just a moment. It was a moment that passed with the semblance of a sparrow and a hawk in divine immobility in mid air, an apparition of death's hesitation. It is a moment between heartbeats.  Hesitation can not live there, nor fear or any other question of the spirit. It's a time for sure and certain knowing, somewhere deep within you, outside of rational thought, that by your hand, the deer will drop to a forested plain, the bird will fall from the sky. My finger stopped. Then he was gone, like a small lightning bolt on earth muddled hoof, striking through the underbrush with a crash.

He was just a yearling, and though for that moment I was tempted to fire, he had not lived long enough to fight for that life, and I was not ready to take that from him. For another time, perhaps, there would be that road.  For today, there is only the proof in the eyes and heart of a living woman of what happened that did not, but only for a touch of a finger and a word, which is our honor.
In the years since this hunt I have learned that there is an unspoken conversation with death between the hunter and their prey. Mors ultima linea rerum est, death is every thing's final limit. Just as it is with the wolf and the rabbit, the outcome of my hunt is settled there, in that first moment of eye contact between two adversaries. In that micro spasm of moment, there is a exchange of information regarding the propriety of the chase, of the worthiness of the kill. A conversation, of not just history, but of mortality.

So it is, outside of those pistols I have for self defense,  most of my firearms are antiques, guns with history, soldiers guns, police officers guns.  Go to the gun show and  tables of new AR15's are interesting, like a 20 year old in shorts is interesting. But give me the tables of Mausers, of Colts, of wood and flint and powder, the galloping thunder of guns which have fired through the fading fury of smoke into the night as somewhere a sparrow falls from the sky.

I don't care if my safe is full of plastic and shiny and new. Our lives are sublets anyway, and too quickly gone. Give me something with history, something of strength and purpose and years, that will give as much back as I can possible give it in return. Not everyone understands.
How do you explain to someone whose life is driven by "what will the neighbor's think", that there are just some things essential to you, that when you see them, you not only recognize them, you wish to experience. But I think it's probably the same thing I think when I see a woman's closet with a hundred pairs of shoes and think "why on earth would someone want a closet full of shoes?" If I won't ever understand that frame of reference, why would they grasp mine?

Of course, not everything that is used is useful, not everything of weight has measure. There will be things you find that end up costing you more than money. But you still seek those treasures that remain. You may find them on a table in a hall, you may find them in a house where they've been locked for far too long. You may find them just breathing, at that same moment in time where you are, two being on a small place on a planet spinning in space, destined to meet.

You realize then; that what you truly value, what truly makes ;you happy, is in such small moments, those places where the Trinity is intact, as if it had never been otherwise, simply tested by the bold fragility of youth and the passion of yearning. God lost and then found, postulated here in the open arms of our faith and need.
Too often we are blind to such moments, or we deliberately avoid them, with a deer in the crosshairs look, caught in that moment of life and motion, where if you do not do something, you will cease to live in that very moment between splendor and speed and the piercing of a heart.  And you choose to click on the safety and walk away, to thoughts of how it could have ended but for your inaction.

You choose and time passes. Days become weeks, becoming months and years. You think back to those places,  where those choices remained, looking up at trees that grew and bore  leaves, while others vanished, burned for warmth and need. But  you don't go back there.  It was just a place along your journey that exists only in the corner of your eye, as you try not and look.  Towards.  Always.

Then one day, you see something and your mind goes there again.  It may be on a table at a gun show, on the floor of a dealer, or simply there, viewed through an open door.  You look and remember. And like that moment in Jaws, where the camera looms in on Sheriff Brody, and the whole world focuses, it does. For just a moment. And you suddenly notice every little detail around you, the sun running straight and empty, like gash down the corridor, a tiny spider web there at the corner of the room, the sun piercing it, illuminating the empty spaces there between heart beats. And you see what it is you desire, held in that moment with conviction, that sense, that feeling of home.
And you know, you were meant to hold it, for just one moment, that small piece of your history, that large piece of yourself you never knew you needed. And you reach for it, one of those impulses, inscrutable yet unassailable which occurs at intervals in all of us, driving us to set down the known and the safe, and seek the possession of something rare, blind to everything but hope and fate.

Or you can just push it away, leave it behind, common sense taking over, and go home quietly to die.

You won't do that a second time.

For you are like I am, and some night when you are old, you will lay in that tent, that old firearm by your side, unable to sleep, but quiet and peaceful, listening to the nights whisper. The past was your future, but you couldn't taste it until, it too was past. Anything else was an illusion. You lay there without regret, for seeking that which you needed, that moment of time, when history and fate were held in your hand and you knew what you wanted. Perhaps it was just a moment, before you set it aside, perhaps you made it yours for a lifetime, but in that moment in which  you were joined, it was grace.

A need so necessary, part of the history that remains.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Never Forget

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
- Edmund Burke

I'm constantly amazed at the ignorance of man, not just in those situations which can get one killed, through acts of mental complacency generally fueled by alcohol or gasoline, but the seemingly willful ignorance of events that are occurring around them. I know people who have never left their home town, but what is more incomprehensible to me, is people who have never thought outside their home town.  I've heard as I keep tabs on the world on my days off, "Why do you CARE what's going on in the China Sea, in Iran?  The new Twilight movie is almost out!

I've come to the conclusion that there are simply some people who won't grasp the truth of the world until they see the truth of themselves.  Knowing yourself is a lifelong and sometimes acutely painful process, with your biggest lessons often emerging from your biggest mistakes. Truth about the nature of man and the world isn't always pleasant, some things we don't want to know  - what's really in a hot dog, how many calories there are in a piece of pie, and anything at all about anyone named Kardashian. Some things we cannot bear to know. But that knowledge of some things, no matter how hurtful to ones' spirit, is absolutely essential to our well being, for only with truth do we have the resilience, the capacity to continue on, alive in the moment, unbound by regret and willing to fight.

In disaster, in threat, to we as individuals, to we as a nation, the nature of truth, and how we face it, asserts itself.

Those who take charge do, those who choose to hide from things do, be it disaster, heartbreak, the economy, crime or a terrorist attack. After 9-11, I had one acquaintance who refused to watch the news, heading out on a planned vacation and pretending it never happened. Another watched sitcom TV non stop, staying home from work with a bowl of popcorn. Both of these individuals were in denial, afraid to accept the truth.

I look around the crash pad as my friends pack up to leave tomorrow.  It looks as if a testosterone bomb went off in here, guns, ammo, knives squirrel gear and more than one badge.  It's loud and it's messy, and sometimes it's bloody, but I wouldn't trade my life, my duty and my bond with these people for anything. We share the fidelity with people we are bound to protect, even if we don't particularly like them. We've slept on bare ground and we know the sound of a bullet as it comes at us, not next to us at some sunny gun range, that sound that breaks the barrier that most people live behind. We've discovered things that are not so much "shiny" as unearthing a grave with bare hands and sticks, revealing more than just the comprehension of bereavement and irreparable finality, but that which is visible only to each other.

I am going to hate the sound the garage door makes as it comes down as they drive away

On the shelf, packed from the trip to my Dad's, is a stone, full of fossilized seashells.  When I was home last, Big Bro told me about it.  It came from the quarry we did our target shooting at as kids. He squirreled it away when it was unearthed, knowing what a find it was, so many miles from the sea.  He told me he wanted me to have it.  He then quietly took me to Dad's garage and opened a drawer where he had hidden it as a child, picked it up carefully and gave it to me.  We've both seen a lot in our careers, that we can't discuss, even with one another. We don't discuss it now, we won't discuss it after we retire, we won't write a book about it.  There's an oath we took and we honor that. The rock was his way of acknowledging that what I do is important, that no matter how many years pass, he is still there.

It sits now in my office..

On another shelf, behind a desk, is another stone, one that many don't look it, it's just another rock to be collected to most observers,  displayed along with other artifacts of memory. 

The last weeks have been long, with time on the road, and fitful sleep. This is not quite the life I expected when I hung up my wings for another four years of education on top of two previous degrees and a return to service. But it's the life that fits what strengths I have. I've come home with brain matter on my shoes. I've come home with images a person should never see, playing in my head like a bad film, until sleep comes fitfully. Yet I come home with purpose. With resolution.  I've collected those moments of lives, of loved ones, in the minutes before they leave us. I collect what is left, carefully, gently and with reverence, cataloging the bare bones of all that is truly important, so that we can learn from it, so that it doesn't happen again. Then I usually go back to an empty room.

After 9/11 while flags waved on cars, and taps played,  I thought, now people have to see, finally see that truth is  fierce and unrelenting. But soon, most forgot. Truth  We cannot ignore it or change it, but we can change the way we live with it. The truth of 9-11 is that the world IS a dangerous place and being politically correct to the point of ignoring the facts of who hates us and who is quietly amassing nuclear readiness while we make nice and look good for the cameras, isn't going to end well.

I finished at the Academy in 2001 and September 11 occurred when I was still wet behind the ears, assigned some mundane tasks until "something happened".  It did. Looking at the images on TV of Ground Zero, we sat, stunned, waiting travel orders while I tried to not let it out that I had a brother who spent a lot of time at the Pentagon, there smoking on TV. There was no talk, just a breathing that bordered on keening, looking at one another, our team leader, with an alert, profound justice as though we had already seen through the flames to where we would be, the shape of the disaster of which we could not speak. That day was trial by fire.

When I look at that stone behind the desk, I can't help but connected to the event from which it came, vowing never to forget.  There is something about a physical remnant of such places, those hallowed spots in which the innocent died, that bears with it the same quality of  perspective as those who stood in its shadow, as though the object itself is speaking to us. It speaks to us in silent and profound significance, whispering its own truths.

When I'm out in the field I remember as well.  Around me there is only musing sound, as shadows hang aloft, as if from invisible wire, hovering above what remains for eyes to see. A place severed from the living, spectral shadow among that place of circumscribed desolation, filled with the voice of wasted lives and murmuring regret. There, only those left here, who remember history, who will gather what remains, cataloging it for infinity.

As I turn off the lights, the last to leave, I take one last look at a chunk of stone.

It sits in a small office, on a flat surface in bitten shadow. It sits near a place where work is done to keep many safe. Most don't see it. It simply sits, in dense stillness, filling the room, the dawn, the dusk, with silent voices. I don't hear the voices but I know they exist. Each morning to start the day in its shadow, warm and safe, we remember that no matter what heartache comes our way, it is nothing compared to what this piece of stone bears witness to.

Those that see it don't look at it closely. But it speaks of so much that our generation, and most of our leaders, will never, ever fathom.

In  the quiet of a shadowed facility where honor stands watch and oaths are kept, a small stone weeps.

Never, ever  forget.

- Brigid

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Squirrel Fuel - Lasagna Bites and Farmhouse Biscuits

It's been a long day of training or just hanging around.

Everyone is hungry, but you don't really feel like a whole bunch of work. Let's see, I've got leftover pasta sauce, and there is cheese but we ate all the noodles last night.  What to make?

Lasagna Bites - Range Style.

They're little individual lasagnas made using the freshest of ingredients, baked in a muffin cup, using Wonton wrappers instead of noodles (not to be confused with wanton wrappers which you can buy at Victoria's Secret).

You press a wonton wrapper into the muffin tin and fill it with meat sauce made with ground turkey and spices and top with ricotta with a hint of cracked pepper and basil.  The recipe has from scratch pasta sauce, which I made a triple batch up to use and/or freeze, but you can use your favorite, even jarred. 

Sprinkle on a blend of five cheeses. Then, gently press another wonton wrapper on top of the ricotta layer, pressing down into the sides of the tin to form a shallow bowl shape.

Repeat the meat sauce, ricotta and cheese layers and bake for less than 15 minutes. The top edges of the wontons get crispy, the supporting structure is softer, with just enough bite to it to support the cheesy filling well.  You can do a dozen, or if you have really hungry squirrels, this easily doubles.
click on photos to enlarge, you know the drill

As my meat filling was pretty chunky with the extra mushrooms, it was a bit more than a bite, but definitely worth the time, and the fork.

Now for some bread to go with it that can bake with the main course.  Maybe just biscuits, they're easy.  But what if you want a one mixing bowl, no kneading, no biscuit cutter kind of biscuit. Farmhouse biscuit with sea salt and rosemary.

Just mix the dry ingredients, shave in some cold butter with a potato peeler (makes it much easier to blend), add some milk mixed with a heaping tablespoon of sour cream, mix, and pat into a square (OK, it's not square, but my jar of Ovaltine isn't oval, either). Then top with savory/salty/ or sweet and bake.  Less than 5 minutes, then in the oven it goes with the rest of your dinner.
Mix in medium bowl :
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder (check date, old powder doesn't rise well)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Cut in 1/4 cup butter, first shaved or cut into small slices, into flour with pastry blender or knife and fork just until the mixture resembles very course crumbs.
Stir into dry ingredients:
 3/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon milk (to which you've whisked a heaping Tablespoon of sour cream), just until the dough barely holds together.  You do NOT want a smooth, elastic looking dough, like for bread.

Gently pat onto the baking sheet or pan (spray with a little non stick spray first), cut into 9 pieces but do not separate.

Brush with a little melted butter and sprinkle with roughly 1/8 teaspoon sea salt mixed with 1/4 teaspoon sugar.  Sprinkle with some  dried Rosemary and bake at 375 F for 22-25 minutes.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014


The world's largest firefighter instructor conference is going on in Indy this week.

I have squirrel friends (not from my squirrel tree, but another) that are here for this all week, on their own time and dollar.  Their current job description isn't firefighter, but it's a skill set they have much experience in, and wish to maintain, even if at the volunteer level, now or in the future.

So the Range d'Crash Pad is acting as temporary housing, food, and friendship for such folks this week and weekend.  Partner knows I'd take a bullet for them (literally and figuratively) so an extra bedroom or couch and plenty of food is easy. 

I'll be back this week with a saved post or two.  But rest assured, if tonight, I manage to explode the gravy (seriously, who knew beef gravy was binary) AND catch the oven mitt on fire (again), I'm likely in good hands.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Caller ID of the Wild - A Short Story

We all wear a leash it seems, for most it is electronic, that smartphone, twitter, internet connection to the world.  Some people can not take it off, for any length of time at all.  I am the odd one in I do not have a smart phone, I have a phone the size of a small brick.  If someone ever gets a text from me, they'll realize I'm either dying or out of bacon, it's something serious  People look at the phone and say "what apps does it have?"  It's said with the same expression as "what do you mean, you're not on Facebook!?"   I say "it has the ringing app" and they think I'm kidding

Some would think me odd, but I'd rather think I'm not out of synch with communication technology, I just move around the edges of it, haunting it, seeing the world by and in a different perspective, a world designed by the same grand engineer, but seen not in bursts of texts,  fragments of rock and stone and sky, the fragility of soul, the strength of bone, impervious to the harder air, and open to the warmth of flesh.

Frankly, I just prefer to run off lead.
But imagine for a moment that time, of our parents, grandparents, and beyond  Where there was no TV, often no radio.  Neighbors might be miles away, what books were in the house, were perhaps read dozens of time already.

I remember though, my Mom saying, that growing up, although there could be times of great aloneness, she was never lonely, for their was a creativity in that solitude  Grandma would make cakes and breads and jams, some to eat, and some to sell, so there would be food each day after my Grandfather died so young. For the children, when their chores were done, there was much to explore; fields and furrows, the fragrant bins of a local grist mill, remnants of wheat to chew as gum, flax that slid through the fingers like water, leaving a puddle on the floor.
When everything was done for the season, my Mom would crawl up in her uncle's barn, her small form high up into the barn and sit in a little space, the sun on her face, and dreaming of, not cold and hunger, but of kings and warriors and mysterious woods fraught with deer, living and dying beyond the hubbed little world of a Depression farm.

No one cared what some celebrity twittered they had for breakfast, no one reported in every nano second what they were doing or where they were going,  Women knew when their men would come in by the tilt of the sun, and meals were spent, not with heads held down, texting, but with heads bowed, giving thanks for the opportunity to work hard for their food.

I too, still need those kind of days, and for me, they are often the days of the hunt.
It's a fall morning, the sky clear and cold. Overhead, a satellite tracks across the sky catching and tossing down words both meaningful and meaningless, the whole world connected by electronic devices, as much a part of them as something they wear.  My phone is silent  Honestly, I don't even know if I brought it with me.  I really don't care.

I  look out at the world at ground level as a child does, everything so small, yet remarkably enduring against the broad, encompassable earth. Across the road the remains of a cornfield, small predators scurrying within the maze, seeking prey.  To the east, the sun  pulls itself up to the horizon, as the stars above melt into the liquid night. Off in the distant, a small rise of hill behind an old farm, pine trees bunched up a tilted slope, hidden and expectant.
Early mornings are nothing new to my family.  Dad loved to go fishing and would get up at three in the morning to get ready and make the drive to where the deer and the steelhead played.  Mom would get up with him, make him a hot breakfast and then go back to sleep until the kids awoke.
A friend heard that story and said "my wife won't get up early with me" before his hour and half commute each way to the city. One day, twenty minutes out the door, he realized he forgot something and went back, expecting the house to be dark and quiet.  But the kitchen light was on, there were shadows of someone in the kitchen, there was the sound of laughter.  He walked in, not knowing WHAT he'd find and there she was, his wife of 22 years, frying an egg. . . for their Labrador Retriever.  He said "you don't get up to make me breakfast but you get up early to make the DOG breakfast?"  She said, "well, he likes his egg in the morning". 

But not every one is a "morning person".  Some, even with chances to go to bed early, finding they need a pot of coffee and perhaps a taser to get them moving in the morning.
As a youngster, I'd gone bird hunting a few times, and whitetail hunting when I got my first shotgun, but my experience with large animals as I dove into adulthood was limited to some of the livestock I'd  have to drive around when traveling on missions in strange foreign lands. 

Many of you have been in such places, countries where livestock roam freely and you soon learn that although you can maneuver through a herd of three dozen goats and not put even a small (it'll buff out) dent in one, you can NOT drive through a cow.  A cow refuses to give way and nothing will make them change their mind, not horn honking (the Hindi brake pedal), swearing loudly in Norwegian or having the natives whack at it with brooms "Oh blessed, scared cow, please remove thy self from our lane of cheap antiquities, yes we take American dollar". That cow is NOT moving, until you swerve to avoid it, at which point it will drop down into the lane directly in front of your bumper faster than Tony Stewart.

It seemed my life was one frantic journey to such places as that, a beeper drawing me out of sleep in the middle of the night, life a constant flurry to keep moving, because if I sat still, if I had a moment in the silence, I would see and hear the things I knew I didn't want to know.

But I wanted to go hunting again someday even as I knew  back then that my spouse would never let me, leaving me alone to work when he did such things without me.  But given my life, the demands of old family and new, and taking care of a small farm when I wasn't off flying all over, taking any overtime or hazard pay I could get to keep the wolves from the door, it's not as if I had time.  In the end, the call of a loon was nothing more than a deep keen that would be released from my soul in sleep, the sound sometimes awakening me.

Years later, all I had of those days was his old business strongbox.  It held no sums but only the empty record of talents misapplied; gifts abandoned and betrayed, until there was nothing left to destroy. I had no one telling me I couldn't hunt any more. I had no one really saying much of anything, no one really knowing what to say.

But then, a lifetime later, it seemed, someone said "do you want to go hunting with us?" It began with friends that somehow made me part of a gathering that began unexpectedly and ended around a campfire  Even being a rather motley band of brothers, tinkers, tailors, soldiers, spies, we  were serious in our hunts. We scouted and built blinds and checked for rubs and scrapes, long before the season started. The night before, we'd have a meal and perhaps a cocktail. Most imagine the meal before the hunt as being gentlemen sipping whiskey outdoors in front of a "bed of glowing embers" on which a pan of trout gently sizzles, like something out of a Hemingway novel.  I have to tell you from experience, "bed of glowing embers" is as elusive to the average hunter as that 14 point buck.
No, for us it was running through waves of heat to fling a few burgers on the roaring conflagration that was our "gently glowing embers" from at least ten feet, then retreating, hoping that rum cocktail that someone "whipped up" didn't spontaneously combust.  The dinner was sometimes burned, it was sometimes raw in the middle, but if you could cut it without the chainsaw or poke it and not have it fight back, you figured it was good to eat. But we had friendship and we had stories. and we told the stories that the naive and the young don't know, but hunters tell, myself simply listening, as I thumbed through the old photos of previous generations. 

In those photos of the men from generations past, faded and dog-eared from time, the pride is clear on their face. They look leaner and more of the woods than photos I've seen in some fancy hunting catalogs now. Men who counted on their hunt to feed their families. They look into the camera with eyes a hundred years old, there in the glare of the camera bulb, the courage, the restless heart, too strong for the indoors. There it is, captured in that brief flash of light, then disappearing into the darkness, home with their kill.
The men in the photos were all dead and gone. But at least they weren't dead and gone while still drawing breath, trapped in thickets of suburbia, all the instincts of their fore bearers watered down to tasteless existence. Food from the store, health from a tanning bed, and dreams trickling down a drain in a house that saps all your money and energy.

We sat up until the fire died down, an ember jumping free of the flame and lighting on one of the old photos. I quickly jumped to brush it off, realizing too well that a 1/4 inch cinder is longer than time, and the flame it can start is larger than remembrance or grief. I've found out the hard way that burning wreckage is, unfortunately, stronger than both courage and will.
Sleep was a sleeping bag on the ground.  Everyone else could roll their up until it was the size of a loaf of bread.  No matter what I did mine was the size of a round bale of hay.  But with the fire finally winding down and deer camp quiet, I slept, dreaming of hunters long ago, a toast to their days, peace to their ashes. 

The alarm went off so very early and we were on our way out well before it got light.  I'd given up perfume weeks before and I had an assortment of hunter friendly products to wash up with.  I could go out with a body wash that smelled like "dirt" or unscented. I went for the unscented, headed outside, dressed and ready, my eyes bright from excitement, not from a eyeliner pencil or a pot of glittery shadow.

 I was a "probie" when it came to hunting really, it had been so many years.  But they figured that out when I took a deep whiff of the "new and improved" Tinks with "what does THIS  now smell like?"  WHOA!  But I could handle a firearm well, I was strong, and I was not afraid of much of anything except spiders, vending machine sandwiches and those ladies in the department stores that try and spray you with perfume, as if you were a mugger, and Chanel was the new mace. I was ready. Or was I ? How would I do out alone in the cold and the dark, the elements around me reminding me again, how alone I really was.
But adrenalin and pride pushed me out the door, eager to rush into something I'd wanted to do again for years, leaping into something I'd known would happen, that feeling that somehow lovers and suicides both grasp in that instant when it's too late. The fact that it was spitting snow with temperatures in the minus area, did not even slow me down. I was with people I both admired and loved, and I was going to hunt if I froze to death trying, I muttered under my breath, a beggar's prayer to the wild.

We weren't carrying any walking talkies or any such gadgets.  If I made they heard a shot, they'd send someone, as I would need someone to assist me through the field dressing.  If I had to, I could whistle.  If I sing, cats gather on the porch but I can whistle like a longshoreman.

From the woods behind us, came a deep seated grunt. A primordial huff from inky nothing, letting us know, that not only that he was there, that he knew WE were there. Deer don't get to be enormous by not being wily. We split into four lone hunters, walking a couple miles, widely spaced on the 500 acres we were on. We walk through trails barely visible in moonbeam, avoiding the deer trails so not to leave scent or sound, taking back brush filled routes into out spots.
I now wait. Alone.  This was different than sitting solitary in a home. There I just felt lonely.  Here, it was something else, something my Mom hinted at; the not quite believing, not quite awakened sense of isolation that was fully alive; he breathing spell of ancient verbiage of desire and newly found need. Hearing the celestial hush of a world hurtling through space, the small tiny rustle of a tiny creature worrying only if he is prey before daylight. I was up in a mid-level blind, nothing more than a small platform from which I'd climbed up simple stakes set into the trunk. Cautious as to the final silence of night that would envelop me if I fell out if it headfirst, I lean around cautiously, feeling my shoulder hang there just for a moment in space, so I knew where my best balance was, counting my backbone as it lay up against the trunk that was my only support.

The woods came alive. If you hunt or camp, really camp, you know what I'm talking about. When sound by sound you become aware of life around you, the chirping of birds and a chipmunk mocking the deep episcopal purple of the night. I sat, flexing my feet in their boots to keep them warm, clutching my weapon to me like a  newborn babe in arms, ears picking up every little sound, eyes scanning my world for what I sought. The sounds themselves flexed, continuously rising, then falling to silence, life, then death, a sharp cry in the underbrush a small joy, or a sudden end. The woods were alive, as am I, a small figure in a tree blind, a wet seed on the hot, seeing ground, waiting for something.
My first ground blind up at the Frank James farm.  Not subtle but it worked.

The day goes so fast, yet time passes in slow motion, the woods trembling with shimmering forms that flash before my eyes, glimpsed for only a moment as they blend into green as the dawn slowly melts into view. Leaves caress my check, as a small storm moves in. From where I sit, I can see it for an hour, not encroaching closely enough I needed to seek a safer spot, but flirting with a small spot of land, distant artillery flashes against a the sky slowly bleeding into brightness.

This was a day alone hunting, not boredom or despair but listening to the sound of the world as I dream of gods and mere men, blackpowder and black labs, men in kilts, prime rib and everything in between. I saw no deer but I was occasionally heckled by squirrels including one that was so short and fat he may have actually been a disgruntled hamster. I tried to ignore them, pulling my gun up, finger off the trigger and occasionally saying "bang" at them to see if they'd leave. They did, if only to go harass someone else.
I simply sat and waited, looking upward into the deep veined richness of space.  Any lingering doubt I had as to my ability to be in this spot, at this time, stops, as my heart jumps at the shadow on a 12 point buck entering my view.

It was almost dusk when he came forth.  From a small ridge line marked by sentient rows of corn, he moves quietly, stopping, listening, smelling. Seventy-five yards away, one movement on my part as he looks my way, and he would be gone before I could pull up and aim. The moment is there in between a heartbeat, a sound, a sixth sense and he begins to dart away. Thinking back to something that came from one of the previous evenings old stories, I put up my fingers to my mouth, tasting the earth, tasting myself, and I whistle. One brief, sharp sound that breaks the lie of silence. The buck stops for just a moment and my shot rings out.

He didn't go far, the bullet going through his heart, one leap toward the heavens and he was down, providing in that moment, a closure of a cycle for both he and myself. With his life, giving sustenance for the upcoming cold winter, I stand in respectful silence for a moment over his body, thankful for what we will have on our table this winter. A prayer of thanks that comes on the edge of a sharp knife.

Soon, someone would find me, hearing the shot, but for now there is only deathly silence, the woods giving up no living sound, the darkness simple an echo of that that went past today, snorts and snuffings, the chatter of squirrels, the smell of warm breath, cooling flesh, scarred hide and strong bones within which there still lay secrets that even the darkness is reluctant to reveal.

I wait for the sound of the vehicle, knowing he will eventually come for me, even as I gave up waiting, the ruts in the road remembering the press of tires, even after a long period of drought

I look up the trail as I wait, looking with eyes hundreds of years old, an esoteric glance, not of this world, but of one newly found. This was the only call I needed this day, the one of the outdoors.
 - Brigid