Autumn creeps ever closer, displacing humidity with each determined step. I embrace her arrival, as if feelings otherwise could change the inevitability of natures’ power play. A distant landscape is washed in yellow, orange, and fiery red hues, and it occurs to me death shall never be displayed more brilliantly. Across the harvested fields lies the heart of the woods, calling to me like a forgotten friend.
Despite settling down early I wake restless and frazzled from the hunts in my head. While the world-weary slumber, I prepare in the dark for another opening day. My mind readies itself to record the hunt, as it has for years; archiving each detail, making them available for replay. Subtle—like the grin of a possum, a smile creeps across my unshaven face as I reach past the collared shirts to the camouflage that patiently waits. Appointments, voicemails, and deadlines become tiny specs in my truck’s rearview mirror.
The moment my boot encounters the crunch of fallen leaves I’m innately aware of the fact I’ll never be more alive than in the midst of nature. Mundane tasks flushed away and replaced with data relayed from heightened senses. I am completely in tune with her and she with me, content with a smaller role on a grander scale. It is another world where communication occurs on a higher plane, spoken words become awkward and unnecessary.
A towering oak is the first to address me with a mere gentle waving of branches. She has boldly stood the test of time, but splintered limbs on her right side signify that even nature cannot sing harmoniously during every chorus and from time to time one force imposes its will upon another. A tip of my cap serves to acknowledge her fortitude, as well as my intention to scale her side. Whispered words leave a visible trail in the chilly air, “It’s good to see you again, my friend.” Through the darkest veil of night, the gnarled knot on her side winks in approval.
For another year she has held my front row seat. Nestled among her branches we shall both witness an unscripted play as if for the very first time. With the precision of an orchestrated symphony, orange and red light splashes over the horizon, dancing across the broken stalks. Inch by inch the rays bring life and death simultaneously. Cyclical beauties are the beginning and ending of a day, yet what transpires in the hours between is life; hours comprised of minutes, minutes of seconds, each appearing only once and never to be regained. Where lamenting those wasted in the past will only consume the present.
Even now as I sit in my tranquil state, the transformation from hunter to hunted looms near. Truly it began seconds after drawing my first breath, but it is only now I’m aware of its steely approach. Being prey is nothing to fear, for everything is hunted by something or someone. My prayers are only that I may face the hunter who desires me with dignity and grace.