Jill Joines Christensen
Board Member, E-Magazine Editor, and Website Administrator
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…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.” -- Henry David Thoreau
<< Jill in 1988, first gobbler
As a youth, I spent many afternoons playing in the woods with my best friend Alice, where we imagined ourselves in many worlds, roles, and adventures. We also found signs left by the animals who lived where we played. In the woods, we each could explore the person within. There, we could be anyone we wanted, just by saying "I am."
Then we grew up.
At 30, I married. At my request, my husband and I spent every vacation hunting and fishing along the Georgia and Gulf coasts, or camping at West Point Lake. Five times he saved my life. Of course, had I not been married to a man who thirsted for adventure in every aspect of his life, he would not have needed to. That just added to the romance of our outdoor life, which was just enough to sustain the other areas of our lives together. And after 15 years, it all unraveled.
We divvied up the "stuff" and I left with my precious doberman Alex, some furniture, and personal belongings, which--of course--included my hunting gear. I bought and moved immediately into a 50's bungalow that needed work and lots of cleaning, but it also had a big fenced backyard for Alex, woods behind, and a shed made only of doors, all kinds of doors! including one that said
USE OTHER DOOR
I'm not sure if it was that or the screened front porch, where I could chat with a friend till darkness and summer sounds bullied us sweetly into companionable silence, but I loved that little house. And I missed hunting, but still associated it with the painful loss of my former life.
I fell in love again and married my wonderful current husband, who is perfect in every way but one: he does not hunt. He will not hunt. When he moved my belongings from my little country house in the city to a thoroughly modern suburban home, he asked about the 4-foot high box marked HUNTING. I hadn't told him, you see.
"Are you really going to keep this stuff?" he asked.
I touched the box and it was like the saying goes: my former life flashed before my eyes. I shook myself back to reality and said, with no doubt whatsoever, "Yes. I will hunt again."
And yet, the years passed and the box remained unopened.
I began to hear people talking about hunting. Surely they had done so all along. Why had I not noticed?
I listened for details and, when I didn't get them, prompted the speaker for more, timidly at first. They were men, most unused to women hunters, so if they noticed at all, they looked at me blankly and returned to their conversations with, always, other male hunters. Frustrated, I became more aggressive.
"Where did he come from? Was it windy? Were you using a climbing stand? What do you shoot? Did he come in quiet? Did he see you?"
Finally, my friend Mike, probably to get me out of his face, stopped and looked at me, only it wasn't a blank look, but a slightly amused, speculative one. And then he said, "I thought you mentioned you kept all your hunting stuff?"
Shocked at his challenging response, but surprised he even had to ask, I said, "Well, of course I did!"
Then came the kicker. "Why?" he asked.
He twisted the knife. "Are you waiting for some MAN to take you to the woods?"
Like touching my hunting box years before, his words took me back. Again I was reeling with images, sounds, smells of the woods, of animals, the squirrels, the hawks, the deer hiding behind a dogwood, the owls, the turkeys. The images slowed and as I remembered the light of a silvery dawn glinting off more points than I could count, I heard Hank Williams singing about a whippoorwill, and I smelled gunpowder and pine needles.
The next day I dug out my box, carefully cleaned my guns, and refamiliarized myself with the person within.
"I am a hunter."
Renaissance Gobbler, 2006 ===>
Other Articles by Jill Christensen
Cold day in GA
First doe with a bow
1980's, on an early model Loc on Limb