Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

journal notes 11:45 a.m., September 16, 2002 

I am sitting on a rough twin bed in Room #6 at the Mt. Peyton outfitters’ lodge. There are dark green sheets on the two beds. The sheets feel fresh and clean this trip, without that damp, been on the bed too long stale feeling they had the first time we were here. The modest rooms have been spiffed up a bit, the one white wall painted and the other board walls sealed. The vinyl floor is still hard and chilly, but has been recently cleaned.

Wind blew in some rain under the door last night, but I found an old towel to wipe up that puddle and to use as an indoor mat. Now that I’m unpacked, the little room is beginning to take on some charm. Somehow it’s monastic simplicity pleases me.

I hear the sounds of hunters returning from their morning hunt and hope to see Buck walking through that brown door in a few minutes.

It is much cooler here than it was last week in Scotland. Nearly gale force winds last night and, of course, the blowing rain. Buck is having to use Gordon’s gun today, since British Midlands Airline failed to get it on the plane from Glasgow to London, or at any rate to get it transferred timely from BMI at Heathrow to our Air Canada flight. Additionally, a very nice, pretty young guide-trainee, Elizabeth, who also goes by Beth, was tagging along this morning on her own all terrain vehicle, behind Gordon. Plus, Buck’s injured knee is uncomfortable. So all in all, I am hopeful that he has had a good hunting experience this morning despite the above. Elizabeth may turn into a fine guide, but her clear femininity and naivete make me wonder why she has chosen this career path. She’s a local Bishop’s Falls girl. Gordon told us yesterday that job opportunities are few and far between for local young people whose first choice would be to stay in their hometown. That may be the answer.

There are four moose hunters at the lodge this week: two from Michigan and two from Ohio. There were playing a card game called Euchre when we came in. They looked a little like some of the hard cases from the movie Deliverance, but when Buck and I introduced ourselves, we found they knew how to turn on the social niceties on cue . . . an important skill even for guys in a hunting camp.

The dining table is a kind of refectory style — a glorified picnic table, polyurethaned, with long padded benches on each side. One of the moose hunters, Dave, was short, chunky, with a full black beard and little pig eyes. Hearty laugh. His companion, Ron, was tall, with longish dirty blond hair and a horse face. He wore a Harley Davidson t-shirt and looked at me in a way that suggests he likes to mix it up with women. Suspect he could be, as my Scottish friend Lynn might put it, “too familiar” if given an inch.

I was writing at the dining table when Ron came in with a guide, Alfred. Dressed in camo, but wearing yellow aviator style wrap-around glasses, he cut an edgy, vain picture. At the first opportunity, I gathered my calendar and notebooks and came back to the room where I am now, writing and getting sleepy. I just heard another ATV pull up. Hope it’s Buck in for lunch.

These few days in “splendid isolation” are a great opportunity for me to get back into the swing of writing — to get into the habit of writing morning pages, and to refocus my voice. I say refocus, although frankly I don’t feel like I’ve quite found it yet. Clinical observation doesn’t make for compelling writing. What really am I about here? Why am I even interested? Why do I want to write and what is it I am trying to unearth? I suspect there are some answers in my childhood and if I do a little more digging in that old garden maybe it will unblock my creative potential. I’ve already found some help through my “snapshot” approach to memory exploration.

My feet are cold. The damp air is penetrating my thick socks and jogging shoes. These rooms have a low-level type of gas heater, only minimally effective. I have already begun to wish real hard for some sunshine.

We’re in a semi-black communications hole here this week. There is a radio, which Tony Stone (“Stony” — cook, guide, and all-around good guy) plays while he’s in the kitchen, and a small tv which airs two stations, but it’s upstairs where the guides hang out and I wouldn’t go up there, plus a mobile phone mounted in the pantry area. Our cell phone doesn’t work and there’s no land line for the computer or anything else. It’s frustrating, I admit, to be shut off from my technological creature comforts. But since I am, this is a good opportunity to focus on more contemplative subjects that have been on my mind: writing, spirituality, our family. I don’t feel like I am pro-active enough in any of those areas but rather drifting along along on the tide of events. And as a grown woman of 51+, it’s time for me to at last begin to swim in the deep end of the pool.

11:oo p.m.

Pretty miserable here. Hard rain, windStill no word on Buck’s gun. My patience with these men in this hunting camp is wearing thin. Women really are the civilizers, whatever men may thing. Yes, okay. For the most part they’re reasonably good boys and trainable, but one does tire of the effort. I am NOT speaking of Buck here — he is in the elevated category of what I call “real men.” True, he goofed tonight in giving Gordon a potpourri of reasons why the girl guide should be switched off to another hunter. The potentially jealous wife angle sent me into a tilted orbit, but he squared things in a subtle but effective way with Gordon so that Elizabeth’s feelings won’t be hurt, (at least not because of Buck; I can’t vouch for those other cretins), nor will I get the credit for the fact that she isn’t going to work out, which was a really upsetting thought. I don’t like to be mischaracterized and, yes, I’m damned touchy about it.

I wouldn’t go nearly so far (yet, anyway) as to say coming back here was a mistake, because the natural beauty of the place, along with the sweetness of Don, Tony, Gordon and the boys, is unique and special, but these other hunters are a real pain in the ass — the kind who stare at you when they think you don’t notice, but wouldn’t speak or have person-to-person eye contact if their life depended on it. I found my self praying: Dead God, help me to curb my tongue, to find the humanity in these low-lifes, and be more patient when surrounded by social neanderthal jerks.

September 17, 2002 10:10 a.m.

The lodge kitchen is redolent with the smell of mild Italian sausages cooking for a late breakfast. Hungry hunters will be drifting in soon. It’s cool and damp, but at least not raining. One of the hunters, Mike, just came in. He asked if I would like to take a picture of the moose he killed.  So, I did. Seeing the look of childlike joy on Mike’s face, showing off his trophy, I realized with an inward smile that God had answered my sardonic (and sarcastic) prayer from last night. I asked to be able to see these hunters’ humanity, and that’s just what I saw in Mike a few minutes ago. He seemed pleased that I wanted to take a picture.

Just got word that Buck got a caribou. Joel is heading out to help with it. That will, I’m sure, take the sting out of his missing in action Blaser rifle. It was kind of Gordon to lend Buck his own personal gun.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I believe in what I can see, hear, taste, smell and feel — not an otherworldly construct of free-floating spirits, or disembodied presences trying to communicate with me. Having said that, now I’ll admit to something I consider silly, if not outrageous — for a few weeks now (before we left Asheville) — I have had several experiences where I turned quickly, thinking I had seen something moving in my peripheral vision and had an odd sensation of not being alone in a room that I was clearly alone in.  It hasn’t been scary, just a feeling that something or someone is trying to get my attention. Strange. And this is even sillier. In Scotland, when I was sitting on the patio in G-7 at The Auchrannie on September 11, upset and moved by the worldwide memorial services, especially at St. Paul’s in London and the services in New York, a robin sat on a Rose of Sharon bush that was growing in a flower box bordering the patio. True, I had put out a few crumbs and that robin, along with a titmouse and several other birds, had taken advantage of the treat, but this particular bird acted more interested in communing with me on some level. He looked at me so intently, cocking his head this way and that. Finally, I said okay, what is it you’re trying to tell me? He twittered softly, but didn’t budge from his spot. Sounds crazy, I know, but my distinct impression is that the bird was trying to convey a smile. Yeah, I know. Gone right round the bend to where the busses don’t run. Anyway, I’m listening.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

September 19, 2002 6:35 o.m.

A brief moment of solitude and quiet here in the lodge dining room is welcome. It’s a pristine evening, bright sunshine gleaming over the pond, and the kitchen, as usual, is redolent with inviting smells. Tonight Tony is making roast beef with carrots, cabbage, potatoes, etc. Sounds wonderful and I can only imagine that it will be heaven on earth to the hunters and guides who have been out in the cold wind all afternoon.

There is so much I don’t know about people. Like most folks, I go out each day with my own mindset and world view, often failing to observe and listen carefully to others.

Thinking of the would-be girl guide, how her chin trembled and blue eyes began to fill this morning as she shared with me in a very soft voice that the the guiding job wasn’t going to work out, I realized she’s just the age of our oldest grandchild, 22. And it was more than a bit eye opening to contemplate the fact that I am almost thirty years her senior. She is already a single parent to a curly-haired little 1 1/2 year old named Hannah.

 

 

 

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