Friends Old, New, and Soon to Be,
We move too fast these days. I suppose that is a debatable proposition, but I don’t know many folks who have time to entertain the debate. Perhaps stillness is bound to be just another lost art we cast off as something belonging to our forebears. I suppose we will find a way to wrap it in plastic and sell it. Maybe there’s a Master Class or a life hack or an app to come. But for me, slowing down is a choice, an affirmative step. More and more, I believe it’s a necessity as I am palpably happier when I put my efforts into actually living rather than making one.
A friend who understands the value of a slow moment recently offered me his family farm and the cabin upon it for a two-day dove hunt. It seemed a simple kindness, one easy to accept. But attempting to schedule a late afternoon and early morning hunt with friends brought into stark relief the frantic nature of the lives we’re living. As four of us volleyed back and forth our texts about availability, I looked at the monogramed Zippo my Great-Grandfather, Louis “Bub” Campbell, owned. In the 1920s, Bub managed Foshalee, one of the great quail plantations near Tallahassee, Florida. It seems doubtful he would have needed much of a text exchange to take a meeting with Gentleman Bob.
The same rhythms Bub followed still drive the real, immutable world around us. Things larger than all of us occur without regard to our calendar invites or conference calls or carpools. Rather, they are compelled by instinct and time and season. Leaves change color. A morning comes that we walk outside to drive to work and think to turn back for a jacket. The doves fly.
Lost Dog Street Band, of whose music I am fond, has a song that mourns, “Circumstances shot us down like September doves.” I take that as a warning not to miss the passing of real things as meaningless things hold us entranced. Thus, it passed that we settled upon a Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning hunt.
The afternoon hunt was a challenge, one nevertheless worth it for the chance to watch three generations of hunters. But the next morning brought me that first time feeling I sometimes get afield, when the air is clear and the steel and glass and sound of modern life seem as distant from me as they were to Bub. For a moment, I see overwhelmingly how blessed we are to be a part of those most elemental processes of life, the ones we must hunt to find.
I watched the sun crest the horizon, stars slowly giving way to a burgeoning glory of color. As the growing light gilded the remnants of summer’s corn, it revealed a line of hunters as invested as I in the moment, their faces turned to the coming day. I looked down at Owen, the English Cocker Spaniel who had spent the previous afternoon looking reprovingly from my face to the quiet muzzle of a borrowed 1939 Merkl 16 gauge, and made him a promise. Two hours later, with Owen’s help, I savored the rich taste of fresh dove cleaned by my own hand, cooked on cast iron with a little butter, and thought about the importance of knowing when I am where I wanted to be.
We move too fast these days. Maybe we need to ask just where it is we mean to be going and why. Maybe we ought to take a chance to look around and make sure we’re not already there.
Russell Worth Parker
Editor at Large, Tom Beckbe