I’m already quite fearful of signs and breaking any law in general. I never went to the principal’s office or ever had a detention. As my husband could tell you, if he weren’t flying 3,000 feet above my fearful vehicle, I’m a big fan of the quandary, “Can I get in trouble for this? Are they mad? I don’t want to make anyone mad.” So, I’m doing my best to appear as if the plane is late and I happened to arrive early and am not happy about waiting in this spot. I happily grin in a way I hope conveys a sense of “yes, I know I shouldn’t be hanging out here but you know, it’s how life goes” to the interested guard.
All law breaking anxiety flies out the open window and into the unseasonably warm April day when Mike texts me, informing me his plane has landed. Suddenly, without warning, my heart begins to thud. I can’t breathe. My limbs have gone limp. When my body comes back to itself an instant later, I check my reflection and then swiftly, without a backward glance at the menacing sign or the guard, fly from the open window, across the empty airport asphalt and through the sliding glass doors.
I used to blame my hunting overzealousness, nervousness and heart-poundingness to the fact that I was still, in many respects a new hunter. Every nuance, every small, infinitesimal nifty thing used to force my brain to begin jumping around like a three-year old on Christmas morning. “LOOK!” I’d scream, tugging heartily at the hem of my weather-beaten prairie dress, “IT’S A SQUIRREL EATING A NUT!! THIS IS THE GREATEST SIGHT THYNE EYES TWO HAVE EVER OR WILL EVER BEHOLD!” Besides being pretty impressed my toddler alter ego possesses such panache for verbiage, I’d continually shock myself at how excited I’d get over the smallest occurrences.
One morning, I awoke early with the paranoid feeling I was being watched. Understandably, I automatically assumed a clan of hungry bears had descended upon the area beneath my tree and were filling their bellies with honey and Andie’s Candies before catapulting themselves up and feasting upon my venison taco-flavored flesh. I looked down, and saw nothing which didn’t really placate my paranoia because I knew bears where black it was black out and everything was black and my mind turned opaque terror until I noticed two yellow eyes beaming like tractor lights over a corn field at midnight the day before a monsoon.
My heart thudded audibly. The sun rose quickly. Had a deer arrived, I wouldn’t have shot for before me stood Nigel, hooting away to Lenny. Four-year old me was screaming, “IT’S AN OWL. A FREAKING OWL. AND HE’S HOOTING. AND HIS BUDDY IS HOOTING. AND THEY DON’T KNOW WE’RE HERE. WHY DON’T WE SPEAK OWL?” while adult me sat silently, enjoying the show and briefly wondering why my subconscious defined me in the plural, toying with the possibility all those people who had claimed there were many Lisa Janes within this huntress were correct all these years.
The essential organ thudded ferociously; shaking me to the absolute core of my being so many times it’s difficult to count. My first deer, hell, the first time I ever saw a deer in the wild while hunting. The first time I shot a double on the goose fields of North Carolina. My first North Dakota duck hunt and every time I’ve seen the feathered footballs tornado since. In the years since I started hunting, I figured my heart would eventually level and cease pounding so vehemently when faced with anything in the wild, legal target or extraneous entertainment. But it hasn’t. Contrary to my childlike belief in the beginning who wished it away, I hope it never does.
Which brings us back to this airport. The guard inside seems amused by my dance for I’m jiggling from one foot to the other, looking past the annoyed TSA agents to the far gate, one of three, that is burping out passengers from the mid-day Minnesota run. The heart hammering is continuing and rushes quicker at the sight of tall men. When the tall ones saunter past, not being my tall one, it slows.
I tell Mike my heart’s pounding like five minutes before our first date, which conveniently occurred four years ago today.
He looked loved and said, “Mine too.”
I’ve heard from many seasoned hunters they still feel the same rush they did during their first adventure afield each time they step in a blind, see a deer or hear a gobble. Instead of the old days of world-class animals signifying a successful hunt, the age of the experience, old owl, venison taco, imaginary bear, and thudding heart is upon us. In that respect, hunting is a lot like a love; full of beating hearts, let downs, aching distance, successes, adventurous tales, and the search of that great trophy, the one whose tale of how you got him is the real reason you do what you do.
As the years pass, and the heart still thuds in love, respect for the wild, and the rush of the hunt, it knows what we believed all along to be true: this was meant to be, we were meant to be hunters, to be together always in the wild, and in life, forever.