My life is chaotic. I bet your life is chaotic too at least at times. A good life full of the best blessings usually is wrought with chaos. The two must go hand in hand. Being a naturally quiet and reserved personality, I don’t handle chaos well. It makes me anxious and distracted even when most of the things swirling through the whirlwind are all good things. I tend to favor organization and carefully planned days that focus on quiet…those NEVER happen so I should probably just burn that pipe dream. My reality is nothing of the sort. I think one day when I am old and my life quiets down a little I may at times miss the chaos if only for the fact that my favorite part of life is the very thing that causes the majority of my chaos…my children. Someday they will have moved on into their own chaotic existences and I know that I will MISS this time. Even so, that knowledge of my future does not change my personality now and due to the inevitable clashing of my personality and my reality, I seek and require regular centering of the mind. I have to take moments to put all of the scattered pieces inside my head back in their places so that I can clearly see the big picture and relocate my priorities. It provides the calm and quiet my soul requires and fills up my tank to head back into the stream of life in the right direction.
I have many avenues in which I can find moments to settle my mind but none of them are as effective or enjoyed as my time spent alone in the mountains. Here amidst so much bigger and more powerful forces than myself I oddly find pure peace. Here my mind releases all of the trappings of society and life and clarity comes with a sharpness I am unable to find anywhere else. Things that were once cloudy and muddled in my psyche are suddenly crystal clear and I find resolve and ambition to tackle things that seemed unreachable from the center of the whirlwind. There is nothing holding back the mind in the mountains. It’s like a horse once harnessed to the wagon of life suddenly breaks free from the buckles and leather straps. The burden had felt so heavy and exhausting but when the weight was gone there was a renewal of energy. The eyes that had to be glued to the path ahead to avoid stumbling are able to be lifted high to see the vastness around them and take in the beauty and wonder otherwise lost in the simple hard work of life. The sheer relief of it all causes a mixture of healthy emotions. I simply love it.
My most recent chance to lose myself in the mountains was the final few days of spring bear season and I jumped at the chance. My mother so kindly came over to watch the kiddos so that I could step away and into the wonder of the mountains. Sometimes I can get caught up in the pressure of hunting with the eyes of social media on me. There is often a feeling of necessity in filling a tag to appease the hungry eyes of those watching. I never stay in this place for long though as my reasons for hunting have always been driven by a pure love of the experiences. This hunt was not different as I headed down a trail that had a week ago been unknown to me. I had the blessing of spending a weekend out with my husband in this area recently and couldn’t wait to get back to it as it was just a gorgeous place to exist. I hurried down the path as the sun was sinking quickly behind the steep mountains to the west and I knew I would not have long to glass the open hillside I had chosen to watch until dark. As I finally reached the edge of it, I sensed a presence that was not natural. I looked up to my left and at the top of a large rock slide sat 4 hunters already glassing the clearing. I had not run into any hunters the weekend before and since there was still a lot of snow in parts of this country, I had not anticipated having competition for this spot but I had been wrong. I quietly continued along the path waving a hand at the hunters to let them know I had seen them and would not interrupt their hunt. The path I was hiking led into thick timber along a rushing creek filled with ice cold runoff from the deep snow at the tops of the mountains. I knew there was not another good glassing place along this trail for a mile and it was a steep mile at that. There was no way for me to make it there before the shooting light would be too far gone so I decided to explore the area a little more and then head back out at dark. I would make sure that I was the first person to the clearing the next morning. As I tromped back down the trail in the dark the moon kept me company and I began to drift back into the centered mind I knew was tucked away inside my head just waiting for a time like this to crawl out and get in a good stretch.
That night I slept in my rig for only a few short hours. I knew the sun would be up early so I hit the trail at 4:30 AM confident that I was the only person on it. As I made my way over the creeks and across the boulders in the dark my mind enjoyed thoughts of seeing a bear in the meadow and taking that bear home. When I arrived back at the clearing, I made my way up the rock slide and settled in for 17 hours of glassing. Just as a side note, 17 hours of glassing is…HARD. My eyes hurt and so did my butt. This hillside had everything I wanted to create an absolutely perfect habitat for a bear. The entire thing was surrounded by massive, thick timber creating safe and cool bedding areas. The grasses on the hillside were thick and dark green and along one side of the open area ran a strong, cold, runoff steam that plunged into a large creek framing the entire bottom of the feeding area. Not only did the terrain scream bear habitat but there was also an abundance of elk spotting the landscape including cows with newborn calves, a favorite spring meal for local black bears. I couldn’t have developed a better location in my mind and I knew that if I had a chance of seeing a bear today it was going to be here. This cemented my determination to sit through all hours of shooting light and just glass.
I loved watching the interactions of the deer and elk. I got to see cows taking their calves to bed down and I watched the slow decent of sunlight across the landscape. It felt like forever before it finally reached me and began to melt away the chill that was forcing shivers at an ever-increasing rate. The chills gave way to sweat as the heat of the day beat down on me for hours. I snuck down to the creek and soaked my wild rag at midday to hang around my neck and cool me down. I worked my way to the top of the rock slide and found shade under a large fir tree. Here I spent the remaining hours burning the visions of the entire mountainside into my brain. I can still see the images of the creek and the bedding areas through the binoculars in my mind. All of this time spent on the mountain was prime brain centering. Here the mind wanders as it had nothing else to do and a sort of meditation seems inevitable. The parts of your mind that are usually impenetrable become available and I enjoyed the opportunity to mull over things I had tucked away for a time just like this. As I watched the light fading from the creek bottom and the sunlight releasing the tips of the highest trees I knew and accepted that I would not tag a bear this spring. As I packed up my gear and made my way down the rock slide in the blackness of a wilderness night, I was simply happy. My mind was re-centered, my priorities once again clear as crystal and I felt like I had just reoriented the compass of my mind and was setting back off on my life adventure confident that my direction was true. My focus could be on the process of life because I was on course. It was time to plod onward until my next opportunity came to unleash the mind in the wilderness. Walking out without a bear but free of mind was just as great as notching a tag and if that is the only thing I ever accomplish spring bear hunting it will still be success for me.