It’s closing in on the end of February and that means wolf season in Montana is coming to an end. This season did not go as I had anticipated. Actually, this last 5 months have not gone as I had anticipated. When does life ever go as planned? These last months have been incredibly difficult in so many ways and I want to preface this by saying that by sharing my chaotic crazy life is in no way an attempt to diminish the horrors that some people face. Overall in my life I have seen so much incredible blessing and I am extremely grateful for all that I have. It doesn’t change the fact that the last few months have challenged myself and my family in ways that we have never experienced before. Some of these challenges were expected and others were not but all of them had their own form of difficulty presented and we are still navigating some of them.
October is usually the month that I dedicate to hunting elk and trying to get my tag filled so that there is meat in the freezer for the family for the year. This October however was going to be unlike anything I had ever experienced. I will go into detail about my crazy adventure in the Arctic in another story but for now just know that spending an entire month almost completely alone in the Arctic with no tools or gear but the clothes on my back was an absolutely incredible experience and one of the harder things I have ever done physically. Being away from my family and my children took a huge toll on me mentally as well and it was a bittersweet way to spend that month of my life. In many ways I enjoyed the adventure, the lessons I learned there about nature and myself are priceless.
When I finally came home in November, I got dropped into the thick of hunting season. I spent what little time I had filling two whitetail buck tags but was unsuccessful in taking an elk. This season also becomes incredibly busy with the kids’ school, holidays and both of my daughters’ birthdays. After a month in the arctic I was eager to be back doing what I love with my kids but my mind had a difficult time transitioning from the surreal peace and simplicity of living completely in nature with only the occasional creature for company. The craziness of the schedule and world around me through the holiday season seemed to create a sense of crazy in my own mind. I found myself overwhelmed easily and sometimes even unable to do some of the things I really wanted to do for HuntFiber simply because my mind and my plate were just too full.
I saw January as a new start and hoped to find the structure and simplicity of routine again and be more free creatively as my mind was released from all the pressures of the holidays but the show that I was filming in the Arctic was about to premiere and the pressures just changed forms and presented themselves in a different way. At this time my family also got hit with the crazy winter sicknesses and strep throat, staph infections, flu and who knows what else all made their rounds through the family. The holiday pressures were replaced with prescriptions and doctors’ appointments. My son had to have some special care for a throat issue following a bad choking incident and the list goes on. “Perhaps February will be easier.” I thought. “I’ll get back into my routine then.”
February…February was not easier. My father-in-law tragically passed away at the beginning of February. He was an amazing person. He was so loved by his family and the ripple of sorrow that passed through our family has only begun to be seen. He was an amazing Grandfather who invested time with his grandchildren making them hand crafted wooden toys. He was a military veteran, a Red Cross worker who served at ground zero during 911, a FEMA worker at numerous disasters throughout our country, a loving father and husband. He was so many things to so many people and he is incredibly missed. Navigating such unexpected tragedy is always difficult as there is no easy or right way through it. It’s messy, unfair and hard. It is the real stuff of life. As we are trying to find our way in the fog my grandfather is also dying. He is yet another veteran. He has survived being shot, a stroke and a heart attack and no one can deny that he is one tough cookie. Knowing he has lived a long and full life doesn’t make the thought of him passing any easier.
I don’t share this with you looking for pity. I know that this story is everyone’s story. We all have one. Life gives no one a free ride. Life is messy, it hurts. Life is unfair and sometimes brutal. Life is also beautiful. The things we face that are hard can help us grow and make us stronger if we let them. They can also make us angry and bitter. Have I felt anger in the last 5 months? Heck yes. Have I felt bitter? Undoubtedly yes. Watching the suffering my family is going through brings out the beast in me and I have felt many awful things. But…I won’t choose to stay in these feelings because I refuse to let the hardships not create something good in the end. I will learn everything that I can from them and I will do everything I can to come through it a stronger person. Hardship is inevitable but what we do with it is up to us and though it may be a bumpy road the outcome can be something with an element of good in the end. Here’s to another wolf season in the books and although it hasn’t looked anything like I expected and although it is wrought with hardship and things I hate I will choose to look at it as a stepping stone to a lesson I am honored to learn and I will do my best to build it into something worth the heartache.