By Bradley Carleton | Contributor
I dream vividly in September. So clear are my dreams, that at times it seems that I cannot tell which are my reality and which are, in fact, just a figment of my imagination.
I go to bed at night with my window open, allowing the pungent aroma of the last cut of hay to circulate around the bedroom.
I close my eyes to the sound of crickets and cicadas in the yard.
I dream of low-flying “V’s” of Canada geese skimming the treetops and cupping their majestic wings, waffling from side to side as they lose altitude. Their black patent leather boots dropping and their mighty pinions back peddling to land in a field of clover and alfalfa.
In the distance I hear the ki-ki-run of a flock of turkeys with their poults, seeking one another’s comfort in the tree line.
I walk toward the spirited conversation and find myself in wooded rapture.
A bushy-tailed gray squirrel chip-chip-chips at me from atop an oak tree. A blue jay answers the loquacious rodent, telling him to hush so that they can hear something larger approaching from out of the setting sun.
A twig cracks and the woods fall silent. A loud huff of air comes from behind the buckthorn down the trail to the west. Another snap, this time quieter but closer.
Now I find myself 20 feet above the forest floor in a treestand, holding an instrument whose origins date back to indigenous cultures that roamed this same property long before I existed. The instrument is a vague replica of an arched wooden branch with a gut string attached to both ends. On the spongy top of my palm, resting on the fleshy pulp between my thumb and my forefinger is a shaft with feathers and a blade tied on to the tip.
A white tail flicks in the distance through the shrubbery.
I draw a deep breath as my heart begins to pound in my chest. I can feel it in my throat, pulsing with adrenalin.
Soon, out of the huckleberry, a brown body appears, its fur neatly brushed and its upper neck blending into white collar below. I breathe again, slowly, metering my air to calm my body.
The brown body lifts its head above the bush and suddenly the golden sunlight reflects off of a tawny brown mass of bone above its head. The rack glistens in the amber light.
I breathe in again, slowly, and tell myself I will not look at the antlers again, instead focusing on the breath of the buck.
As he draws in his next breath, his chest fills with power. I draw my breath in synchronous time and feel his strength.
He raises his head and sticks his nose high in the air, again drawing in the aroma of the earth and the leaves around us. I follow his every move, inhaling the same fragrant currents.
He moves forward slowly, stopping to nip a bud off of a tamarack cedar. I watch him chew the piney nut at the tip.
We are close now.
I cannot move.
As he takes another step forward, his head is obscured by a tree trunk.
I raise my bow and draw the arrow back.
The regal monarch steps from behind the tree, allowing me to watch his chest inhale again. We expand our lungs in unison. I can sense his grace and beauty throughout my body.
My fingers are trained to do what comes next. I release the arrow and hear the twang of the string.
It is time to wake up.
A cool north wind blows through the window carrying a scent of cedar into the bedroom.
Bradley Carleton is Executive Director of Sacred Hunter.org, a non-profit that seeks to educate the public on the spiritual connection of man to nature and raises funds for Traditions Outdoor Mentoring.org, which mentors at-risk young men in outdoor pursuits.