Every time I am in the woods I am reborn. Cleansed by campfire smoke and baptized by the rivers and streams. Heaven is America’s wild places and I’m never turned away at her Pearly Gates.
There is a deep spiritual difference between watching nature through the lens of a camera and watching it from between the pins of your bow or through your rifle scope. It’s the difference between watching your kids play and playing with your kids. It’s about participation. It’s about being engaged. It’s about being present.
All those who criticize do so because they don’t understand. Those who say, “you think that makes you a tough guy?” don’t understand the vulnerability it takes to emotionally lay yourself bare to nature, to failure, to rejection and to the cold and frustration. They don’t understand the internal conversation you have when you decide to take a life, that the life you take is so you and your family can live. People like simple feelings, but hunting is a complicated mix of responsibility, sadness, thankfulness, appreciation, frustration, joy, calm, peace, relief and more frustration.
That having been said, it takes a certain fortitude to endure the elements, gain the skills to succeed, get blood on your hands and turn all of that into food. However, I don’t view that as some machismo based in insecurity, I see it as becoming fully human and not being afraid to fully engage in the natural world. I choose not to delegate the dirty work in life to others. I don’t see that as being “tough” or “manly”, I see that acquiring basic human skills, skills that are quickly disappearing from our species.
The modern world is supposed to be connecting us, but is it? We’re quicker to judge, quicker to hate others different than us and quicker to hole up in our bubbles. Whereas the natural world, when you engage it, connects you to all of creation including other humans. When I return from the woods, I’m less concerned with the worries of the day, such as politics, money, etc. and more concerned with the overall well-being of my fellow man and our world. Things become clearer, priorities readjust themselves to their proper places and what was dark all of a sudden has a beam of light in the distance.
In short, time in the woods makes me a better man, a man searching for meaning and a man who carries a little peace in my heart. As the time in between my trips to the wild grows longer I become more of a man of the modern world; angry and empty. The time in the woods calms me and fills me to the brim with goodness.