A few weeks ago, I departed for the Canadian wilderness on my first hunting trip, and anyone that knows me knows I kind of like to think big on new things. So it had to be a moose hunt, one of the largest land mammals in North America. And because moose aren't exactly common in this area, friends and I booked a trip with a Québécois outfitter 10 hours north of Rochester, well into the Canadian wilderness.
And I was surprised no less than four times. Read on for details.
First, let's get this out of the way: I was surprised because I didn't get a moose. In fact, none of us even saw a moose. Is a moose hunt without any moose still a moose hunt? I think so. Yes, it is. Perhaps being prepared to be a hunter is close enough for my purposes. Or perhaps hunting is an act of searching more than killing. I still woke up before sunrise, drove 6 miles to a tree stand, and gazed/dozed through binoculars while searching for signs of movement. A friend on the trip said it best: you spend hours, days, even weeks preparing for what is inevitably 30 seconds of real action. So I missed the 30 seconds. I think I'm still a hunter.
Second, being alone that far from anyone else was a very different experience. Not only was it in the wilderness, it was 80 miles down a dirt road for the last leg, and just as far from a cell signal. How would I experience that much disconnectedness for the first time since cell phones came out? Despite my initial unrest (I rented a satellite phone in case of a real emergency), I didn't think much of being disconnected, even if I did feel it. By that I mean I don't think I missed it. I still had my phone with me - it made a good camera even without a connection. By the middle of the week I was pleasantly surprised at how little I cared for what was happening elsewhere in the world. Life was simpler, quieter - especially in my own headspace. "I think I was born 100 years too late," a friend once said. After living off-grid for a week, I felt like I started to understand what he meant.
Third, sans-distractions, sitting alone for hours watching the sun rise, I really enjoyed the thoughts that came pouring into my head. I noticed things I hadn't before, like the dew on overnight cobwebs between trees. You can just see an example in the lower right of the picture below, taken less than an hour after sunrise.
Sitting, silent, alert and calm,
Witness the sun peek, first rays strike,
Heating, now fog.
Trees, brush boil into the ether,
And then I slept.
Fourth, and even more surprising than my first poem, is that I didn't miss much. I don't mean "miss" as in "miss my family," because ... sure I did, not a huge deal but of course you miss your wife and kids. I mean the rest. There wasn't anything else that couldn't wait. Emails, calls to return, news of the day ... the way I spend most of my time most of my days. It was as if I pushed pause on all of that, and didn't miss a beat. I wonder, then, how productive I am, in an economic sense. If everything still got done, maybe that work/normal week wasn't really necessary. Perhaps I can do in 51 weeks what I normally do in 52. Or maybe 48. Could I do the same in 24 weeks? How many hours doing "normal" is actually necessary to accomplish the same result? Fewer, perhaps, than I thought.
To me, this was a wake-up call. If I even have time to think about these things, I'm either getting more cerebral in my old age or I'm self-underutilized. Time away has given me the chance to re-examine the "what" and "why" of my life, and in the process has revealed the choice of a new "how."
I wonder what I'll do with that.
I feel like I'm playing with the house's money, and I've never felt luckier.