Thursday, March 25, 2010

Memories of Us and The Success of Failure

I can now see the bottom of my boat. That’s really not such a big deal since the bottom of the boat is a jumbled mess of the floatation stuff waiting to be put into place before I put the decking in, then the rest of the stuff for the inside, then finish sanding, then painting. Yeah, you get the idea. My boat is far from finished. But this year I intend to finish her and put her back in the water and spend time on the lake fishing—and writing.

In my redesign and custom remodeling of my 14 ½ foot StarCraft I’ve changed the cabin area around to accommodate “me.” At one time I thought it had to accommodate others. You know, guests, then I decided that it is time I thought about me and what I wanted. So, my customizing of my 60’s era boat has been to fit my wants and needs.

I haven’t really been this fired up about finishing the boat in more than a year, in fact, last summer I barely touched her. That’s not a good idea, because the longer something like a boat sits neglected the more it can degrade and even though she’s an aluminum boat and just a small pleasure boat, I’ve put a lot of work into her to let her develop decay problems. Besides, I’m going to enjoy taking her out and showing off her remodeling. Every little decay that I've allowed in the past year must be repaired before she can go out.

Neglecting a boat is kind of like neglecting the outdoors. Have you ever noticed that when your hunting or fishing partner is gone, whether they’ve moved away, passed on, or can no longer hunt or fish, that it is sometimes hard to get back into the swing of going fishing or hunting? We are social and even things like hunting, which are actually individual actions, we often do in pairs or groups of three or more. There’s also a hierarchy in our hunting camps and though it may not be formally recognized it exists. That is just all part of who we are as humans. We like to share our times, good and bad, with someone else and we like them structured. There are some hunters who share their hunting time with their spouse or significant other. With some of us it is a best friend, or even group of special friends. But most of us do socialize our hunting and fishing.

Whenever there is this talk about sharing the experience and so forth many of us insist that hunting is all about the experience of being outdoors or the sharing. Ortega pointed out that the act of hunting was not complete without the kill. That flies in conflict with the "experience only" belief--doesn't it? The kids I wrote about in my previous post exhibited a need to celebrate their success and share the triumph--all of us do that to one degree or another. But if we want to believe that hunting is about the experience then exactly what is the experience? Is the experience the stalk, the decoys, the morning, the after hunt campfire? Truth is that hunting is all of this and none of this. Hunting is “us” as in what we make of it. Hunting should not be specifically defined as the formal act of stalking and killing a deer or decoying in a duck and killing it. Hunting is defined as how the individual hunter acts out those actions and how the result of that action by the hunter is felt by the hunter and others. The more depth we, as the individual, bring to the table of the hunt the greater the depth of the experience of the hunt is going to be—whether we are sharing that hunt with another or wrapping it up in our own blanket of memories.

The same is true for my boat, “The Olena.” She has waited patiently for me to finish sanding and then painting her hull. For three winters her cabin area has filled with snow and I’ve thought of how “I” want her to be for “me.” I haven’t much changed my thinking about her because most of the time that I will be taking her out to the surrounding lakes I will be alone and I don't mind, it will give me the opportunity to write and maybe catch a fish and also to realize that greatest commodity--to “think.” Maybe about what I want to write or just about the shape of the clouds. They have equal importance on a lazy afternoon.

Suddenly, however, time has become important for me and I want to begin filling The Olena's cabin with memories. Good memories and deep memories. Of friends, grandkids and other family.

In the final analysis isn’t that what most of us want from our hunting experience? Deep memories that we cherish and share with others we believe are worthy of the sharing? We don’t share that perfect going away shot at the last pheasant of the season with just anyone—we share it with someone of importance. They have to be someone who will understand that both the triumph of the clean kill and the failure of a clean miss have equal value in our lives as hunters. Tell me, in what other human activity is failure actually success?

Think about it. glg

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