I find it interesting, being a fan of living, that I’m so infatuated with a season where the prominent natural fascinations are death, decay and departure. We call it fall. The crunch of a decaying leaf under my foot; the migration of summer birds to sunnier destinations; the yellowing of grass as it cowers under gray skies and impending snow – it all feels good to me.
Shortened days surely have an effect on the psyche. Nobody likes to sit at work and peer out into darkness through the office window. Some people slip into a funk, a sort of depression that comes only with fall and especially winter. I get inklings of the winter blues, but not fall. A warm fall day, when your mind is still expecting summer heat but your body feels only autumn chill, is a radical sensation.
From the time I was 12 years old throughout high school, fall meant hunting to me. Grouse, pheasant, antelope, deer. It meant brutally early mornings and frigid days spent pursuing some creature that clearly didn’t want to be found. But it also meant days spent with my father. I could give you a romantic, if not primal, description of father and son bonding over a fresh kill, brought together by blood and tradition. But I won’t, because it was really just about spending the day with him.
Hunting is fascinating in the subtle yet penetrating way it brings people together – it’s bonding without words. There are soft whispers to avoid spooking game, the occasional conversation at normal speaking decibels when the pursuit isn’t imminent, but mostly there is a lot of silence. You hear everything. I never spent as much extended time, one-on-one, with my father in high school as I did when we were hunting.
I have rarely hunted since I left high school. It lost its magic, perhaps its purpose. I find little excitement in walking around in the cold with a weapon, except when I visit my dad in Livingston. I have a deer tag this year, though I don’t know if I’ll have time to make the trip back to my hometown and hunt with him.
For the moment, I’m content with taking fall walks – I go on more mindless strolls in autumn than at any other time of the year. It’s as if, for me, the crisp air allows sounds to resonate with greater urgency. Maybe summer’s warmth lulled me into complacency and suddenly the cold has regained my attention. I’m reminded of sitting next to my dad under a pine tree, waiting in silence and listening to our breathing – listening to autumn. Really, you hear everything.
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