Every Good Morning

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The bow resting on my thigh changes everything. I am waiting in ambush as if I were possessed of claws. The wind is blowing east to west, coming from the woods to me. Only the tops of the trees are visible against a trifling moonglow.

Light flows into this cup amidst the corn — a rivulet, a rill, a brook, a run, a stream, then as if in an instant, a full lake, bright and sharp. A single crow call just as there is light enough to see in flight.

crossbowI review the steps: Bring the bow up slowly, fingers fit to the slots on the foregrip, the arrow already slotted, white flight brush down in the flight groove, notched against the string which upon release will spring forward with 175 pounds of pressure. Pause. Breathe. Watch the deer. Slow down everything. Is it a buck with three points on one antler? Is he presenting his side to me so that I can see just behind his shoulder blade? How close is he for I cannot go beyond 20 yards. What lies beyond him? Where will the arrow go? Raise the bow to my shoulder. Release the safety. Finger off the trigger. Use the top red dot in the sights. Empty my lungs. Empty my mind.

The bow remains at rest.

When I walk out into all this, I move to life and catch moments, but here, waiting, in disguise, still, it is as if I do not exist. There is only wind, weather, animals crackling in their generations, night becoming day, the wild growth of trees, matter in motion.

A screech owl whistles in long trills out of the southeast from deep in the woods.

Evening, 5ish, in a hollow under a big ash tree, the blind up against a spring. A pair of phoebes are hunting the scrub, flinging themselves down from bare twigs and then up in one elliptical sweep. A wide, close cut meadow is set out to my west and south; my head on a swivel follows the closed arc of those lines. I cannot see to the north and east, the flaps zipped up to prevent deer from registering my silhouette. I cannot see the birds behind me that call and feed: nuthatch, chickadee, the alarm call of a wren, cardinals off to the south, one catbird.

First movement, emerging, the rough, wild hill letting go of a fox, vivid red coat, and now through the binoculars, black-tipped ears, a black line running both sides of his muzzle, a right front paw so dark it looks as if it had been dipped in pitch, as individual as you or I. He walks the meadow line, unaware wholly of my eyes upon him, turns, goes back, pauses at the intersection of woods and field and both ears go taut, his tail straight out behind him, a pennant; he holds, he holds then relaxes and disappears inside the trees.

As the light dims, so does birdsong. The first cricket begins. The sound of traffic from 23 and 100 becomes a presence. I have not seen a deer.

At dusk, when I pack up and walk to my car, two great-horned owls begin to call to each other way up on the ridge.

© Mike Wall

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