The many faces of gratitude

Stepping inside our woodstove-heated farmhouse, I paused just inside the door and felt the warmth wrapping itself around me like a blanket. Gratefully, I waited a moment and closing my eyes, appreciated the feeling returning to my extremities. I had just come back in from accompanying my family on the opening weekend deer hunt. That Sunday morning, the temperatures were in the upper 20s with wind gusts kicking up now and then.

Every year when gun hunting season rolls around, I always convince myself I should join in the fun. Two of our three come home to hunt with their dad, and I think I’ll catch the hunting bug and just get out there and enjoy the great out-of-doors with them.

Why do I do this, I ask myself as shivering, I peel off the layers of clothes I had just four hours before, piled on with such enthusiasm? There are some hardy souls that gratefully endure endless hours of waiting in frigid temps without doing anything but watching for a slight movement or listening for the crack of a twig, but hey, there are many different faces of gratitude. Who am I to judge?

My husband and our kids enjoy hunting. They have an appreciation for the land, an acknowledgement of the goodness of being out in the woods together and the security of family-oriented comradery, along with, of course, the thrill of the hunt. Every now and then, they allow me to infringe on their experience by trudging along with them.

Husband and I got dropped off on the road that predawn Sunday morning and our son drove on, taking his sister on up with him, walking her up to her stand before heading on to his. We were dropped near a logging trail and as we started out, I couldn’t see three feet in front of me. I looked like a big round orange pumpkin, walking in what felt like ten pounds of boots. I started to sweat.

Stopping every little while, he turned, waiting for me. I could sense his impatience. (Can a person holler-whisper?)

“Are you coming?”

“Hurry up!”

“What’s your problem?”

My problem? I couldn’t see. I wasn’t sure of where we were going and I didn’t want to fall flat on my face, although had I fallen, I was wearing so many clothes I would have quite literally bounced off the leaf-cushioned floor and rolled to a stop.

Finally we got to the shack and settling in, I was determined to stay as quiet as I could… for as long as I could. Peering into the predawn I could make out what I was sure was antlers and big bodies moving slowly through the woods. Everywhere. I felt like I was on high alert.

Presently I settled down and watched the sun do its job as it opened up the day for us to enjoy, its yellow rays clarifying the antlers were tree limbs and the bodies were rocks.

After a time, we started whispering back and forth in short, croppy sentences.

“Remember not long ago you’d have to get up at 2:30 a.m. to milk cows and then feed before hunting?”

“Ya. How’d I ever do it all.”

“You’d get in at 5:30 and then walk the hill and be all sweaty cuz you were rushing around like mad.”

“Ya.”

We heard gun shots in the distance. Pop. Pop. Pop-pop.

Silence.

“What’s that noise? Packer traffic you think?”

“What should we have for supper?”

“Shhh.”

Since I was shushed, I began to daydream. I should have brought my book. I think I’ll get groceries on Tuesday for Thanksgiving. Did I shut the dryer off this morning before we left? I should have brought my book! I wonder if the kids are cold. I am cold. I’ll think have a cookie and some coffee.

Rustling around brought a quick, stern look from across the shack. I turned, glancing his way. My chair squeaked. Another look. Whispering, “Can’t you just sit still?” I should have brought my book!

Peering out into the woods, I thought I saw something move and realized it was one leaf that had been taunting me all morning. Whenever the wind blew, it would rustle up the leaves like something was coming. My eyes blurred. I envisioned brown somethings moving, the color of fur melding with the bleakness of the forest floor, the sunlight’s shadows creating trickery — was that a whitetail deer darting? I was seeing things that weren’t there.

Then finally late morning, the news I was waiting to hear: “Well, let’s get the kids and go meet up with the others. Nothing’s happening here right now!”

Making it back to the house, I was so very happy to be home. Yes, there are definitely many different faces of gratitude. Next year, I think my family will gratefully leave me at home.

(“And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives; words, actions, whatever; be done in the Name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Colossians 3:17, The Message Bible)