Living Deliberately, A Rediscovery

by Earle Jones

Pitcher "What kind of bird is that, Dad," Nathan's voice resounded from the mountain of canoe packs forcing his heels deeper into the mire of the portage.
"Sounds like an Olive-Sided Flycatcher to me," I responded from beneath my kevlar canopy. Even one of those "three beers" would be great right about now, I thought as I listened to the unmistakable call. "You surely know your birds," I just smiled and continued, knowing that my knowledge was nowhere near as extensive as the most amateur birder. But being out in the bush one learns to recognize calls, not as bird songs but, rather, voices of familiar friends who wish you well as you pass by.

As my son and I pondered over the many idiosyncrasies of this, and the countless other species of birds greeting us on this most recent voyage of inner discovery, I realized that it has been eons since I'd actually looked at one in the wild. So familiar with the sound was I that I rarely interrupted my gait to stop and study this remarkable little creature. Then it hit me... I was beginning to take these exquisite surroundings that I have strove to enjoy and preserve...(I am ashamed to say) for granted.

Around the campfire that night we talked about how important it is to hold fast to the teachings of such writers and educators as Aldo Leopold who said, "Wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization."(1) Isn't it strange that the native peoples did not have a word for wilderness but, rather, the closest accurate expression translated "home?" Thoreau's writings, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,"(2) reverberated in my soul ascending and, ultimately, rejuvenating my being. I crave this spiritual replenishing and awe in the haste at which civilization is rendered down to its raw form once more.

"Earth to Dad, Earth to Dad, Come in Dad," my son's voice yanked me back to reality.
"I get the picture, Nathan," I responded, feeling somewhat embarrassed by his reminder of my need to reflect and realizing that comfort is a crutch that I could do without. Here we rely on what nature teaches us in order to survive. My son had no idea of the enlightenment he had rekindled within me.

"What's on the agenda for tomorrow, Dad?" his words shattered, what seemed to be a millennium of sacred silence mingled with the symphony of whip-poor-wills, the "peent" of the night hawk, and the large, nocturnal 'who knows what' rustling the bushes just beyond the force-field of light from our campfire. As we turned to each other, our smiles imparted the insignificance of the question and we allowed the hallowed tranquility to enwrap us once again. Neither of us needed to speak the words nor answer such an obscure question.

This was a time of rediscovery and as we pondered our individual reasons for being here, we smiled to each other. We knew what interesting and exciting activities would fill our days here. It was not to see exotic birds, climb unconquered cliffs, explore unknown lakes and rivers, or even prove to ourselves that we could survive in a harsh environment. No, in fact the one purpose of our time here was clear to both of us and it was no surprise to see a tear thread a slow winding path down Nathan's cheek through my own already flooding eyes. We both turned our gaze again to the fire and our own thoughts. The argument was settled with not a word. We pondered the assignment at hand. We would both endeavor to reacquaint ourselves with the lessons that could be learned if we just took the time to listen, to see the simplicity of life through the unfettered flight of the Olive-sided Flycatcher, to experience the spirit of our surroundings, and, as Thoreau so aptly phrased it, to simply live deliberately.

1. A Sand County Almanac - Aldo Leopold - 1949
2. Walden Or, Life in the Woods - Henry David Thoreau - 1854

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