We recently visited a friend's family ranch in the Hill Country for a weekend of deer hunting. It was a good time with great friends. And it was a time to re-live an annual ritual--sitting silently in the frigid dark of a deer blind, sipping scotch, waiting for dawn to come. The experience went something like this:
Waking up at 6:00 a.m. on one of the coldest days of the year. Catching the steel bed frame with my shin in the darkness--twice. Struggling to quietly put on as many layers of clothes as I can manage, with a boiler suit on top of it all, to fight the 14 degree weather. Driving out to the blind to wait, with the cold wind tearing at my exposed face. I'm left at the blind, and my friend moves on in the darkness.
The chill is the only companion to the all-encompassing silence. The scotch--an inexpensive lighter single malt (Speyburn Braden Orach)--is the only warmth I can muster. Chilled in the cold air in one of my trusty monogrammed flasks, it provides notes of lemon, honey, hibiscus, green apples, some white pepper, and a gracious, lightly-peated warmth as it slowly trickles down my throat. Not too heavy. Just right.
The sun begins to rise. Just an orange sliver far off in the distance. Only a hint of light. Now I can see that a blanket of diamonds covers the ground. Millions of carats, as far as the eye can see. Waiting to be harvested. Fading with the sun. The air is so cold that you can watch the condensation in your breath freeze into microscopic spheres. It floats away in pillowy clouds like ethereal mist wafting into the ether. Disappearing, like the diamonds, into the sun.
There was nothing for me on this Sunday morning. No animal wondered across my field of view, except for a single redbird flitting in the morning mist. Red against a sea of gray. But, there is as much nobility in the hunt--the waiting, dark, chilled, silent--as there is in the kill. Perhaps more, because on this frigid Sunday morning, the deer and I both enjoyed God's creation on our own terms. If they had come, I might have shared a tipple. Or at least a raised flask in salute.