Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Twenty Feet Higher

I was twenty feet above the world in a tree stand, watching the the forest like a sophomore waiting for her prom date's limo. I was in riding tights, a kilt, and a camo shirt holding my father's rifle and wishing I was ten feet lower. I hate heights. I heard a ruckus towards the hillside and jerked my head. Then, as if someone had read a script's directions, a beautiful buck came into view from stage left. I swear, not thirty yards from where I sat. I slowly switched the safety off, praying hard that the animal would come out into the field below me, offer me the perfect shot. I watched him closely. He was limping but moving fast. He was probably hit in the leg by another hunter, but that didn't seem to slow him down. He was going too fast for me. If he stopped or came into full view I *might* be able to take a shot but anything attempted at that speed with my nerves was going to give him nothing but another limp. When he came within rock-chucking distance my heartbeat had to be loud enough to scare off the chickadees perching beside my head. I started to aim and just as I raised the gun he darted out of sight and into a dip in the field. He moved farther and farther away, towards a road and a house. Any shot at this point would be reckless. Suddenly, as if someone pulled a starting gun only cervine ears could here a herd of does blasted off and away from me. I sighed. I watched him speed off after the other woman, my one chance ruined by my own naivete and low self esteem. Hunting deer was starting to uncomfortably resemble my love life.

I came home and Merlin started hollering soon as he saw my truck pull into the drive. Jasper just stared at me, by his side. It was like watching the Odd Couple if Tony and Felix were in the mob and you owed them money...and, if they were horses.

I guess it was nothing like the Odd Couple.

I promised them hay, but first I needed to cut some kindling and get the two stoves started. I had been out hunting for two hours at a friend's farm and in that time no one was here doing basic things like heating the farm house and feeding horses. I used the axe and hatchet, but it was angry work. I was frustrated with myself. I didn't regret not taking the shot—I was sure it would be a mistake—but I have built up getting a deer to mythic proportions and the closer I got the more it hurt to let them go. Shit. Hunting deer wasexactly like my love life.

There was a lot of sighing tonight, but none of it terminal. There's too much work to be done around here to waste energy moping about. I got the fires started, walked and fed the dogs, chopped firewood, and fed the livestock. The sheep were grateful for their hay, the goats nuzzled my smelly arms, and the pigs looked happier than ever before for their dinner. I may not prove to be a prolific hunter but there was so shortage of food on this little farm. I decided to stop thinking about all the day's little disappointments and nostalgia for men who I was certain did not even remember my middle name anymore and focus on the tangible. I am much better with the tangible.

I came inside and washed my hands with goats milk soap I milked and poured into molds myself. I was wearing a wool cap I knit. My home was heating up with fires I started with wood I used my horse to pull from my forest. These are simple things, but just going through how much of my life is touched by the animals I care for made me swell up with primal happiness. So I didn't have a deer, so what? I did have a story and felt my heart pound. A year ago on this day I wouldn't even be in the position to have a lame pity party over The One That Got Away. Instead of being twenty feet in the air with a deer rifle I'd be two feet from my computer screen making internet coupons. Things were quieter here, lonelier here, but certainly an improvement. What more could you ask for in twelve months than to feel you are moving in the direction of your passion? I gave up the 401k and health insurance to light fires and write you people love letters. How about that?

I chose well.


Blogger LazyG said...

That's the spirit! You didn't bag a deer but you got the experience and now you have a story. We should all be so lucky!

November 21, 2012 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

As my German grandmother would say, "das gut!" (that's good). When life gives you lemons...Keep the chin up kiddo.

November 21, 2012 at 6:50 PM  
Blogger Moose Hollow Farm said...

You did the right thing, Jenna. You would have regretted it more had you shot and wounded. Good call, my hunter friend. There's always a next time and you will be successful. I'm sure that your freezer will be full of venison by the end of hunting season. Good Luck & Happy Thanksgiving.

November 21, 2012 at 6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My hats off to you. I applaud you, bow to you and thank you for choosing the path you did. Days go by that i wish I had the courage to do just what you did.
I wish to "unplug" from the craziness that this society/culture has become. To see things in a simpler light. No more discussion on profits, 401k, interest rates and I-this and I-that. No more Starbucks (I love coffee but Starbucks is cliche). Well done!

November 21, 2012 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger Chautauqua said...

Jenna, I am ambivalent about hunting...but I honor and respect the way you go about it; that you use the animal and that you understand and connect with the sacrifices....nuff said. I live in 'weekend warrior' land ... I was out walking the dogs tonight. On the land adjoining mine is a largish pile of farm debris - roots, grape vines, general farm waste ... and added to the pile - TWO doe carcasses ... stripped only of their skins. Every other part, meat, etc is thrown in the waste pile. Such a sad waste of life. If you shoot it, damn it, use it. I'm pretty pissed off right now. When we moved here 23 years ago, I sent my children off to explore our 5 acres, and what did they find? A headless deer carcass. Some idiot took the head and left the entire body to rot in our woods, to be found by my 9, 11 and 12 year olds ....I could hear their screams as they ran home. OK, done venting. Jenna - you are A-OK in my book and I appreciate the respect and the honor that accompany you on your mission. Blessings on you.

November 21, 2012 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

I am looking forward to reading the story of your first deer. It is only a matter of time.

Happy Thanksgiving.

November 21, 2012 at 8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Jenna: Resonsible choices both times - you don't shoot toward a house, and you don't take a shot if you don't think you can bring the deer down. There will be a deer in your freezer someday. Meanwhile there are other things to give you joy. On the theme of the simpler life, I am in the process of bringing down some very large trees threatening my house, and although I've paid a specialist to do the felling, the trees yielded enough wood to provide my next year's supply and an equal amount for friends who will go shares to process it. I will end up with free wood, my friends will have free wood and the young men who brought the trees down will get a good,living wage! I'll have full details with pictures tomorrow!

November 21, 2012 at 8:45 PM  
Blogger Rosa Veldkamp said...

My husband has been hunting for over 30 years (holy crap that makes me old!!) Some years they get away. Last year there was no deer meat in the freezer. This year there are two small deer hanging in the garage as I type.
It is absolutely better not to make the shot if you are not sure. . . There are a few instances that my hubby took a shot when he wasn't a hundred percent sure. . . He still regrets it all these years later.
Good hunting! :)

November 21, 2012 at 9:17 PM  
Blogger Eileen Hileman said...

Jenna dear, people across the US (probably the world) are chasing their dreams because you inspired them. I knit and spin today because of you. Within six months time we should be living in Washington County (I too threw in the towel on the workaday world). When the right deer/man shows up you are going to know it with every fiber of your being and you'll take the shot/take the chance and it will be worth all the effort. You've done more at 30 than a lot of people at 80. And you challenged/encouraged and cheered the rest of us to do the same. Happy Thanksgiving Jenna. You are at the top of our list of things we are thankful for.

November 21, 2012 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Melanie J. said...

It's the littlest things too, that remind you of how much better a simpler life is. Tonight for me, it was as simple as roasting pumpkin and pureeing it myself, rather than dumping out a can of organic tomorrow for the pie. I was so friggin' delighted by how easy that task was. Every step I take is closer to the authenticity I seek. Happy Thanksgiving, dear girl!

November 21, 2012 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Yes, you chose very well, and we thank you for it! Happy Thanksgiving.

November 21, 2012 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21, 2012 at 11:40 PM  
Blogger anton said...

You did a great job describing the feeling of being touched by the animals around you. This year we're having Thanksgiving with our first farm raised turkey. It's bitter-sweet. I knew this turkey, cared for him everyday, got to know his habits and his quirks and now he'll be feeding my family. The deer will come to you! Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2012 at 12:50 AM  
Blogger karen said...

Happy Thanksgiving Jenna, may you have a wonderful day! Karen from CT

November 22, 2012 at 6:49 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

We love you, too. Have a great Thanksgiving.

November 22, 2012 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Just love the way your words come to you and you share them with us.
You are one special lady.
Blessings to you,

November 23, 2012 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Rich With Life said...

Jenna, I am sure one day the right buck will walk into your field of sight!

The loneliness gets to me living by myself. It's always my animals that remind me that I'm needed and that I'm not alone. But an animal voice isn't enough to stave off the loneliness sometimes! I am so sure that one day someone will come into your life and realize what an amazing, unique and incredible person you are. You'll knock 'em dead girl.


November 23, 2012 at 6:01 PM  
Blogger shrlckhlms said...

Thank you for writing love letters to us! They are beautiful.

I do not understand for the life of me why suitors are not lined up at your door and winding down the street. Seriously. You are wonderful.

November 23, 2012 at 11:34 PM  

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