A wise hunter once said he’d feel silly just “walking around” in the woods. Put a gun in his hands, and all of a sudden he’s got purpose. I know how he feels, even if the “purpose” is merely introspection.
Not that I don’t go for a simple hike once in a while. But carrying a shotgun lends a dimension that maybe I as a hunter, must have. Despite my wife’s contention, an entirely-empty mind is not in the cards for this guy – and maybe not for you, either. A slight whiff of pre-occupation might focus one’s head on the moment, the place, the time, and all the stimuli they present.
Not too much pre-occupation, though. The mechanics of making a shot, for example, might involve too many moving parts and clutter your conscious, pushing the important stuff too far back. But a basic, mindless physical obligation like not dropping your gun frees up neural pathways … at least the few I have left!
If you had a father, I’ll bet you can relate: important discussions seldom took place while sitting across from each other in the living room. They happened when you were changing the oil, cutting firewood or watching a game on television. It’s the male mind at work. Many of us need a kind of sideways route to the real meat of the matter. A shotgun in hand is the detour sign.
Is that why cradling a treasured heirloom – or trusty workhorse of a pump gun – while cleaning it brings back a flood of birds-dogs-places-friends? Can opening a gun case take you back to deep conversations you had with a parent? Crooked over one arm, standing on a mountaintop, all manner of thoughts flood in. Who else have I shared this spot with? What if this was my last day on earth, would I be satisfied with my contributions? Where the heck is my dog?
That last one comes to mind a lot, but I’m good with it. Without a dog, there’d be no gun. Without a gun, there’d be no reason to visit the magical places we hunt. Often, our only companion is our dog, and he is the perfect foil for our imaginings.
My current wirehair Flick is also the class clown. His looks are comic, his actions antic. If it would stay on he’d wear a red rubber nose. So when mental meanderings get too deep, maudlin or introspective he crashes into my shin and brings all things back to immediate.
That’s often good, because situational awareness is also a route to meditation. The Himalayan gurus mutter a mantra to filter out nonessential stimuli. They burn incense, spin prayer wheels. Sufi “whirling dervishes” spin their bodies! A dog, or a shotgun, or a place and its smells, sounds, even tastes … can do the same thing, sans dizziness.
Tromping around with a loaded gun may not be the contemplative exercise of crimson-robed Buddhist monks on final approach to an astral plane. But for me, there’s barely a gap between their cross-legged ponderings and my hefting a cherished 20-gauge on a lush rolling prairie.
Mumble “Om,” chant “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo,” or close the breech on your side-by-side with a metallic “clack” … is there really much difference? Not in my book.
By Scott Linden