26 February 2009

The Call

The Call ebbs and flows. It has it's own natural rhythm, it's highs and lows. At times, the it is deafening. At times you can barely hear it, but it remains there, primal, deep, instinctual.

When I was a kid, it was much louder. It was loud enough that my best friend Steve and I ventured out one spring day to walk to the nearest golf course, through cornfields and fallow ground. We didn't get far, less than a mile, but it was far enough for us to miss supper and send my dad out looking for us.

It was loud enough that I spend hours of my days wandering through an old, abandoned gravel pit across the street from my house. A large part of my childhood was spent there, fishing, chasing frogs, snakes, and turtles. My friend Tim and I walked unseen in front of a hunter who was target practicing, and spent ten minutes sitting behind a large dirt pile waiting for him to finish shooting. I'm sure it wasn't scary deadly close, but we could hear branches above us cracking and snapping as the bullets went through. And that was close enough for two kids.

My cousins and I would play army there, hiding in the bushes with our sticks-shaped-like-guns, climbing trees and running like we thought soldiers did. We spent the better part of the night out there once, until we all went back to my place and slept outside next to our campfire.

My dad and I once tried to find the source of the small creek that ran through the gravel pit, only to discover that the creek turned and disappeared into a residential area about a mile down the road. We geared up for the expedition too, bringing snacks and a compass to find our way. We were both disappointed, I think, that civilization dared encroach on our journey, and so soon after our departure.

The call was loud on the many family vacations we took, where I would take every opportunity to find a trail to disappear down, either on bike or on foot. It was loud when I tried to ride around Gun Lake unsuccessfully. It was loud when I rode from Grand Haven to Holland and back.

It was loud on our family trip to Washington D.C., when I found an old trail along the Potomac and followed it all afternoon.

Every autumn, in fact, the call grows loud for me. I hear snippets of conversation, bits and pieces of sentences, all having to do with the outdoors, the woods, the wilderness.

The leaves turn yellow, the weather turns cooler, and people all around me talk of hunting, the future hunt, and glorious hunts of days past. It doesn't help that I, for my part, dig out my old Ted Nugent cassette single of "Hunt Music". The tape is badly worn, and the tape player in my truck is in desperate need of cleaning, but that doesn't stop me from listening to "Fred Bear", and "Sunrize" over and over again.

One of these days, I tell myself, one of these days I will make it out into the woods. I will venture out there, and I will return with food for my family.

The call is loud right now, as winter releases it's grip on the ground. There are rivers and ponds to fish. There are trails to follow. There are campsites that need a tent on them.

Last week, my Bride and I were driving up north, following my father in law to a little restaurant in Sparta. We both marveled at the landscape, the gentle rolling hills and hollows, the thick, old forested areas, and the massive space that seemed to separate every house from each other.

We wondered aloud at the idea of finding an old house in the middle of nowhere and fixing it up. We talked of ponds and lakes and summertime cottages. I mentioned cheap land in the Upper Peninsula, and my Bride laughed. Perhaps.

Last fall, we joined some friends in a cabin they own north of White Cloud. It was a wonderful time. We cooked over the fire, we talked and laughed, our son Elijah and their son Jack painted Halloween pumpkins.

We took a walk in the woods. Their cabin, which sits on five acres, abuts a large section of state land. There was an old service road that we followed until it ended at one end of a bog. We then picked our way over a small dike in the middle of the bog, where the trail picked up somewhat. We saw deer bounding away in the distance, birds in the trees, and no other humans.

I could feel the woods come alive. As I became more aware of the living woods, I began to feel the call welling up within me. I did not want to turn around. Finally, we decided we had to, as it was beginning to get close to dusk, and we did not want to have to pick our way through that bog in the dark. Well, they didn't. I wouldn't have cared much.

This call is within each of us. It may be buried, it may not be that loud. But it is there.

We have been created as part of this world, to care for it, to enjoy it.

It makes sense that we would be drawn to the wide open spaces, to woods and wetlands, to fields and grasslands. It makes sense that we wouldn't want to come back from a short walk in the woods.

When we fill ourselves with technology, with shopping malls and the conveniences of modern life, the call grows faint, until we can barely hear it at all. Until we lose the ability to hear it and heed it.

And when we lose that, we lose something important to our soul, to our being. We lose a part of why we were created in the first place.

So I am resolving to spend more time outside. To ride more trails. To fish more ponds. To fill more empty camping spots.

I hope you all do the same.



-Tim said...

Dude! That was so freaky! I was convinced at least one of us was getting shot that day...

Glad we made it through. :-)

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, glad you guys made it through!

I agree so strongly with all you say, and say so well here. We lose out a ton. Deb and I are resolved to do better.

Mason said...

Really well written post Wingnut. I too feel that call, and spent much of my youth exploring woods and creeks. Your post brought that back strongly, and made me miss that time enjoying God’s creation. Between the hectic pace of life and the long MI winter it has been far too long.

Just wondering, what restaurant in Sparta?

Dan Martin said...

Wingnut, I haven't stopped by in far too long. I really resonate with what you've written here.

I often feel that one of the reasons we may feel so distant from God is that we spend too much time surrounded by our own creations, which too-easily obscure our view of His creation. May we all re-order our view. . .