Friends Old, New, and Soon to Be,
Keenly aware of the passage of time, and staring at a rapidly approaching fifty, I consider my mortality more than some may think healthy. But my awareness is wholly absent of morbidity; it is more a reflection of how much I enjoy being alive and a part of this world of ours. I try to double down on joy when I feel it. It’s a focused effort, one that requires me to step outside a moment of joy to recognize it for what it is and actively take pleasure in its feeling. When I do, it’s a double dividend.
That effort, and a springtime surplus of pondering as I sit with slate and glass, hoping to strike up a relationship with a lonely gobbler, has made me profoundly aware of what a gift time truly represents. Before the season began, Captain Seth Vernon gave me his time on a day I thought I had none. I’ve been immersed in a writing project that has consumed me since December and the weeks of ten- and twelve-hour days took a toll. Recognizing that, he did not ask. Rather, as friends sometimes do, he told me he’d be by the next morning and to have my turkey gear ready.
As we scouted a huge piece of public land, one in which he’d already invested himself, Seth gave me the gift of his knowledge accrued over time. As we worked our way along a river bank, Seth shared places in which I could spend time with my own daughter. It’s a gift she gives me now, more valuable daily, for as she gets older my capital is in inevitable decline. But she’s still young enough to want moments with her dad and when she looks up and thanks me for a moment we’ve shared, I feel elevated; alive in a way I simultaneously wish I could share and that I selfishly want to preserve for myself. That feeling brings into stark relief what a gift it is when my wife gives me time of my own, taking on more responsibility so I may shirk some.
So it was I got out this past weekend, again with Captain Seth, this time at Mike Hester’s Foxwood Plantation. A friend made when I had the opportunity to write about him, Mike shared with us a stunning piece of the piedmont. It’s a place in which he and his family have invested years, another reminder to me that time shared is the manifestation of kindness. All three of us finished two days of hard hunting empty handed. But the early morning hours spent listening to countless thunderous gobbles, punctuated by the chirp of bobwhites, still echo in my ears. I got what I needed if not what I wanted.
We’ve got a few days of turkey season left here in the Land of the Long Leaf Pine. At my cousin’s lodge on the banks of the Cape Fear River, a place custom built for making memories at the end of a long dirt road winding through pine savanna, I’ll sit on my tailgate and drink coffee. I’ll listen to the whippoorwills and for a moment I’ll again be a child falling asleep to their rhythms in the bedroom of a house that sheltered family for seventy years. Then I’ll pass under the Spanish moss dripping from hundred-year oaks and find a place to sit for a few hours and think about what a fine thing it is to spend time watching the woods wake up. It’s time spent in solitude, made possible by a deep network of family and friends and the gift of their incredibly valuable time. May you both give and receive.
Russell Worth Parker
Editor at Large, Tom Beckbe