So my son and I won a wild hog hunting adventure in a silent auction at a church chili cook-off. I thought, only in the South could you go to a place of worship and win such a thing.
Just so you know, guns are not my thing, never owned one, never shot one, until a couple of months ago. I instilled the help of an acquaintance of mine on procuring such an object.
He was eager to help. As I am an elementary school science teacher, talking about high powered weaponry surrounded by children, ain’t exactly apropos, so we made up a code.
That code was ”popsicle”.
“I need to buy a popsicle,” I said. “I will send you a list of the best popsicles to buy Ms. Herrera,” he said. Travis did. After our brief conversation ended, he said the kids around him asked, “What’s so interesting about popsicles that you have to send her a list of them?”
The popsicle I got was bolt action, light, and empowering, even before I shot it. Boy and I were the last ones in the store. Within an hour, I’d purchased a rifle, case, a scope, and bullets. The store folk carried the popsicle to the entrance, and once I exited the building, just handed it to me.
There we were, my son and I, walking back to my truck in the Texas night as I carried this high powered could-kill-anything weapon, and no one batted an eye. It was daunting and liberating at the same time. I took my son to eat pancakes at an all-night diner to take the edge off this manliness.
I was a bit concerned that a sudden surge of gun-induced testosterone in my system might make me grow a beard or a few chest hairs. My brief worry was unfounded.
However, I am not quite a novice hunter.
I’ve hunted alligators and put one out of its misery with a Bowie knife and a sledge hammer after a gun shot didn’t kill him. The critter was half dead, so I don’t really count that.
Guns are different. There’s a background check, safety involved, taking off the bolt, putting parts of it in a safe under lock and key, and actually shooting it.
Holy cow! Now I know why people choose this as a hobby. To feel the bolt action kick back on a rifle is invigorating.
But that’s not the gist of what I got out of this experience.
The time together with the Boy wasn’t about hunting. It was about being together. We were unsuccessful hunters, but we were successful.
It is what city folk call mindfulness.
In an effort to achieve mindfulness, I’ve been asked to sit in a room in uncomfortable chairs and stay still like I’m a frog breathing deeply and thinking peaceful thoughts.
It didn’t work for me. Perhaps it does for some folks, but not me.
First, I know I’m not a frog. Second, well, there is no second. I know I’m not a frog, period. And I don’t want to be one, even for pretend.
I discovered mindfulness sitting in a deer blind holding a high powered rifle with a good scope in the middle of nowhere near Llano, TX with my son. In the pitch black night viewing stars, I told stories and waited on hogs.
In whispers, I expounded upon his great-grandma growing up in Big Bend evading Pancho Villa, and washing her clothes in puddles during desert droughts near Shafter, TX. where she was born. I told tales of his birth, my alligator hunt, and how life is an adventure.
The Boy is 16 now and a quarterback who doesn’t mind hunting with his mama. For that I am thankful and mindful. Like many parents, I view my kids as my babies no matter their age. I see the Boy falling asleep in a car seat holding a rubber chicken - that was his “lovey” when he was a toddler.
Boy fell asleep a few times during our mindfulness interlude. This time, he was holding a high powered weapon (with the safety on) much in the same way he used to hold that rubber chicken.
“I never stopped sleeping with my rubber chicken. It just got bigger and more dangerous,” Boy remarked later.
Hogs came. We held our breath, taking aim, and shot. We missed each time. We were mindful every time.
After midnight, we walked back to the house illuminated only by the light of our phones on a gravel road crunching. We were quiet. We looked at the stars. It was amazing.
Nature is my mindfulness. Some people view trees, plants, wind, birds chirping, as church or a place of worship. It’s really no different than saying a prayer silently or meditating. The Barcelona architect and artist Antoni Gaudi depicted this well with his Basilica De La Sagrada Familia, turning nature inside out to reflect his love of the outdoors.
Recently, I launched my art and writing into the world after it was sequestered in my head for decades. My initial thought was that it would be my own baby book of firsts after I decided to divorce and become a solo artist.
I was wrong.
It is not just me on this mindful journey. This adventure includes my children: dancing in the rain in the dark, first hog hunt, first visit to the Big Thicket, and learning to change a spare tire together.
Mindfulness is all in perspective. It is not carpe diem. It is carpe vitam wherever you are and whatever state of mind you’re in. It is taking those bubbles of time that float into the air and gazing upon them patiently and with the eye of a curious child.
And if you aren’t sure if hunting is all about being patient and mindful, well, then you’ve likely never been hunting.
Be a frog or don’t. Breathe. Be whatever, wherever you are, and embrace that time. If you don’t, time just floats away like bubbles, and you can’t get it back again.
(Enriching music: Away, by the Toadies; Where’er You Walk, by Handel; sung by Kathleen Battle)