Meditation Room

While sitting in the doctor’s office one day I was thumbing through an out of date magazine about homes and home improvement. Besides the obvious thought that I needed to find a doctor that subscribed to outdoor magazines, my eyes caught an article about a trend in home design, meditation rooms. It is described as a place of “spiritual sanctuary” to get away from the stresses in life. The room is arranged using feng shui (Chinese words for “expensive furniture”) to provide flow and energy in the room. It was described as even having an altar with spiritual symbols as a focal point.

This got me thinking: What would my meditation room be like? I can tell you right now my altar would be an open fireplace with a long mantel to place my spiritual symbols on.  Not one of those with gas logs. I’m talking about build your own fire with kindling, matches and oak logs. It must be part of my prehistoric DNA. We don’t burn much wood so I cut and split my own. The smell of fresh split oak logs in the Spring is part of the anticipation of crisp Fall days and the barely perceptible sound of a bell as Ben works his way through grouse cover.

I already know which spiritual symbols will sit on the mantel. There’s the first quail my son shot when he was 12. I had it mounted with the empty 20-gauge shell he used to kill it. It symbolizes a new generation of hunter and memories over the years he and I have spent together in the fields. Next to that would be a picture we took that same day of my dad, my son, and me giving thumbs up before we left the house. It’s priceless. Also on the mantel would be an old Zebco 33 reel that belonged to my dad. That’s the only kind of reel he used over all the many years we fished together.  It symbolizes my introduction to the outdoors and memories of small farm ponds and slab crappie at Weiss Lake. Of course there’s got to be a couple of old leather dog collars lying on the mantle with reminders of days in the field with Babe, Belle, and Ginny. There are, and will be other dogs, but the memories are there to symbolize why I bird hunt: I love what dogs add to the sport and can’t imagine that I would hunt without them.

A framed print must hang over the mantle. There are several still in tubes I’ve gotten through my membership in one or another conservation organizations. One called “Watchful Monarch” of a ruffed grouse standing on an aspen log that might work. But I think the one that best fits the meditation room is hanging over my office desk right now, “Setters at Sunset”. The name pretty much says it all. “Watchful Monarch” can go over my desk.

That takes care of my altar. Now to feng shui the room to give it flow and energy. In one corner would lean the Winchester Model 42 .410 Uncle Jim gave me. There’s no telling how much game that little gun killed in its lifetime. Uncle Jim hunted everything with that gun with the exception of dove or quail when he stepped up to a 20-gauge. It was his “back door” gun. If you’ve lived in the country you know the one I’m talking about. It leaned in a corner loaded by the back door to shoot at squirrels in the bird feeder or crows in the garden as the situation warranted. The gun was in bad shape when he gave it too me and I had it reconditioned. I’ve only shot it a few since, killing a woodcock on a recent hunt. I don’t know, it just seems sacrilegious for me to use it much after the life it lived. Maybe this is the best way to retire it.

On one wall will hang the full head mount of the trophy chamois I shot in the Bavarian Alps of Germany while in the Army. It reminds me of the German hunting tradition of honoring game that is harvested and Herr Obermayer, a barrel-chested Jagermeister that took me on that hunt. There are a couple of small rehdeer mounts I also harvested in Germany that will hang beside it. They’re not trophies, but take me back to a time of high seats and the friendships developed on those hunts.

Of course there will be some fishing gear around. A couple of Dad’s old rods (with Zebco 33’s of course) are still in my possession. I wish that included his old metal tackle box to sit with them. It takes me back to the day we went winter fishing for bass at Patterson’s Lake and the picture of a burr headed seven year old grinning ear-to-ear holding a stringer of bass. Uncle Bob’s old fly rod will stand in one corner.

It’s a Wright & McGill graphite 4-weight rod and I have no idea what he used it for. Uncle Bob would buy stuff he thought he needed and never use it. He liked to fish but mostly on lakes for white bass and crappie. Knowing Uncle Bob, he went trout fishing one time, bought the rod and never used it again. It’s still in the original metal tube.

There would have to be a hall tree by the door to hang hats on. And I’ve got hats: blaze orange, camouflage, and about six or seven others which rarely get worn. One hook would hold my hunting vest. It’s got to be there so I can heft it every now and then during the off-season and sort through the pockets. Mingled in with the 20 gauge shells, dog whistle, and pocketknife are pieces of leaves and tree branch from last season. There’s probably a grouse or quail feather still in the game pouch with a pack of cheese crackers from last season. It’s there to heft and remember times past and anticipate days ahead. I just can’t figure out why the vest seems to get heavier each year even with the same stuff in it.

That will pretty much get me started in my Meditation Room. I can add to it as time goes along. On second thought, maybe I don’t need a meditation room. I’ve already got one. I’ll take Uncle Bob’s fly rod in and get the guides re-wrapped since it is old.  Hang a little 4-weight reel on it and take it out on Shelton Laurel or Upper Laurel stream during the Delayed Harvest period next year. It’s the right length at 7 ½ feet but a little stiff. With my fly-casting skills it really won’t make a difference.

Dad’s old rods are still in good shape. Maybe I’ll just oil the reels and put some new 8-pound line that Dad said worked best on the 33’s. They’re not much good for trout streams but there are a couple of friends who I may be able to coax into taking me out for crappie at Lake James next Spring or even walleye on Fontana this winter.

While writing this I can look over my shoulder at the little Model 42 shotgun in the gun cabinet. Just like an old bird dog whose heart is in hunting but body can’t keep up, it wants to be out there. I would like to bag a grouse with it to complete its life cycle. If not there’s an oak and hickory ridge in the Pisgah to find a few squirrels. And maybe my friend and his beagle will take me out for a little rabbit hunting. There’s nothing more stress reducing than a crisp winter morning accented with the deep baying of beagles ending in a crescendo at the bark of the little .410.

Shrugging into the hunting vest, slipping the gun out of the case, and as the dogs whine and tails beat against the side of the box this winter I will realize I’ve got the greatest “Spiritual Sanctuary” of all.  It is natures feng shui called the outdoors.

Outdoor New Year Resolutions

Have you made your New Year resolutions? So, how many have you broken just two weeks in? I’m afraid to look at those from last year, knowing most of them probably fell by the wayside. It’s amazing how life interferes with those things we really enjoy doing, isn’t it? As I enter my home stretch in life my hope is to spend more time doing enjoyable things. I’m semi-retired so time should not be an issue. Conflicting priorities, i.e. my wife’s gardening, will present a challenge. So here goes with some things I want to accomplish this year as an outdoorsman in no particular order.

First, shoot more registered targets at sporting clays. The National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) hosts events at local clubs where you record your score and they are reported to national. NSCA has different skill levels starting at E Class and working up to Master shooter. Needless to say, since I’ve not been to many registered shoots I’m currently stuck in E Class. One of the challenges to accomplishing this goal is the lack of registered shoots in our local area. The closest I’m aware of is in Spartanburg. That means travel which also means additional expenses.

I’ve shot a couple of events over the past few years and they are always fun. Great group of folks and there’s a social element to the shoots. Why do this? To improve my shooting. The challenge of competition forces me to “up my game”. I tend to focus more on breaking targets, not so much competing with other folks as with myself. Going to competitive shoots also means more practice. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. My goal is to attend 5 – 6 registered shoots in 2018 to the point that I can consistently shoot 80 targets in a practice round.

This next one is a bucket list item. As you well know, I’m a lifelong bird hunter. One of the things I’ve never done is hunt wild pheasant in one of the western states. My only wild pheasant hunting experience was nearly thirty years ago at an Army Recreation Center in Korea. The hunting was fantastic but I’ve still not hunted them here in the states. The closest I came was three years ago when my son was at an Army school in Kansas. It never materialized as his school schedule and mine never worked out.

So Kansas or Iowa provide the closest opportunities but they’re still a full day’s drive away. But hey, I’ve driven that far for grouse so why not. I’m drawn further west for one reason. A twofer. Along with hunting pheasant another bucket list item is to hunt pronghorn antelope. Not sure what my attraction is to pronghorns. I’ve just always been fascinated by them and what it would take to shoot one. It’s typically long range shooting on the plains. So going out to South Dakota or western North Dakota looks like the best option. It’s time to start planning.

My third resolution is more local. Something forsaken to meet work obligations. I really want to spend more time trout fishing our mountain streams. I’ve already got the gear although my skills are lacking. My method is more akin to flailing the water than artful presentation. But it’s fun and can be done with a little travel and minimum financial investment. Or so I think. We are truly blessed with ample trout fishing opportunities here in the mountains. Nearly a thousand miles of streams and a very active stocking program by the WRC.

To be an angler in Western North Carolina and not take advantage of the resource is insane. And I’m not there yet. There are waters for every angler: Hatchery Supported, Delayed Harvest, Wild Trout, and even some of the local lakes and ponds are stocked by the WRC like Max Patch and Lake Powhatan. This also has me thinking that maybe it’s time to buy a canoe to do some drift fishing for smallmouth bass on the French Broad River, another overlooked opportunity in our area.

So there you have it, my short list of three resolutions for the next year. Maybe if I keep the list short there is a greater chance of getting them done. Hope you make plans to spend time in the outdoors this coming year. Happy New Year.