Saturday, April 12, 2014

Where the Trinity is Intact

Last night was going to be a night out with friends, people with whom I share a lot of history and stories. After saying good night to Partner, out saving the day on the other side of the planet, I got as dressed up as much as is "dressed up" for me, in blue jeans and a brand new white silk shirt.  I managed to look quite elegant, I thought, seated at a nice quiet table in the corner of the pub.  I have back up and a designated driver.  I don't have to be on duty tomorrow.  I'm simply a dot, awaiting an adult beverage. As always, I had my eyes towards the doorway, backup available.  But like anything we never imagine, it came at me when I least expected it, my six foot two, 240 pounds of muscled and well armed backup unable to do anything but look on . . . as the world's biggest glass of red wine flew off the approaching waitresses' tray.

Merlot Missile lock-on, aimed right at the center of my new blouse.  

SPLOSH! I looked like someone on  the losing side on Game of Thrones.  My friend PA commandeers some extra towels and club soda, as I attempted to clean up, while half the restaurant suddenly seemed to gather round. Many apologies and some semblance of order later, our other friend arrived to be asked by the waitress "what would you like to drink?" I couldn't help but mutter, like a ventriloquist, "I'll have what she's wearing".

But you know, it wasn't going to ruin my dinner, as wine stains not withstanding, it was going to be an evening of good food and firearm tales.  It was the trinity of three friends, much history, together, safe and intact; something so special because it is never guaranteed.  We look at photos of our younger selves with a "I was in Bosnia when you took that", or "I was in Iraq".  The stories, then told, reminding us just how many thousands of weathered doors we've passed through, some a little more forcefully than others, and all of the rain and ice and deserts harsh heat our skin witnessed to get here, tonight, the flesh in one piece.
But too soon, it was time to go home, helping house guests get packed to head back east in the morning.  I bustled around, trying to forestall that moment when they said goodbye, taking in that big gulp of air as I looked at their gear, at the orange dog collar on the dresser, so still, so silent. One last breath, to hold me in the airless days ahead.

Still, with moments of laughter, embarrassment and sometimes tears, I wouldn't trade such moments for anything.

Look at what is precious to you, those people, those things that you trust your life and your heart with.  Is it something new and perfect? Is it something cheap and fleeting? No, it is likely to have a bit of wear and perhaps a small ding, there because it had strength to withstand such things.
If you are smart, you look past the dust and the scars as you gather that which is important to you around you. It's that giving over to our gut feeling as to the validity of something or someone, that often reaps the most reward. Look in your gun safe. Is what you treasure the newest or the shiniest? That which you prize the most may be that firearm for which the number of deer that had fallen before it were legion,. Your most treasured possession, a weapon in which you knew that the fierce heat of its holding, there in the blaze of a new autumn, would renew you better than that plastic fake camo looking one.

Look at the world around you, to that which has withstood time, things carefully tended. Stop at the gun show and talk to that 80 year old veteran about something more than the price of his brass. Chances are he won't just regale you with stories of the war, no riposte of sweaty storytelling of gunfire and noise which all war stories are composed of, no ragged lines of gaunt infantry beneath the tattered flags of courage. No, what he will tell you quietly, is simple This was my gun, it served me well, but I'm willing to sell it. Let me tell you about it. And what stories it can tell.
It was there in the case at the gun store, so many years ago, an old Belgium Browning 20 gauge. My first hunting firearm. I'd trained on the Daisy and up, under my LEO parents watchful eyes, but I was ready for something with more weight, more depth, something that was mine. It was older than me, older than my parents, perhaps, lovingly cared for and then up for sale, sitting forlorn in a locked case. Why? A death in the family, a household strapped and the only source of food the giving up of things carefully tended?

The gun had a long history of care, you could see it in the fine veneered finish the carefully tended and lubricated workings. Somebody deeply cared for this piece for more than one generation. But the gun could not answer from its prison of glass, the ghost of its presence simply asking "why".
It was a cold fall morning, a few months later. Across the ditch line came a young whitetail buck.  He moved slowly, without the inborn caution yet tested by a fading gout of black powder smoke. I watched the Browning elongate, rising to become a round spot against the light brown spot of a hearts location, a period on a page soon to be red.

To an outside observer, I would have appeared almost motionless.  But there is great activity in being the observer from above, standing in a stillness that smells of grass, breathing in so many scents in damp warm air. Sweat, blood and a flower that only blooms in the dark, the wind so scant it's like breath on a mirror. Each smell blended yet distinct, always overlaid with the copper tang of life spilled. The air hums along to the earths quiet as all I see, smell and feel forms into a substance I can almost feel on my flesh, capturing it, recording it there in the stillness. The truth is often still, inarticulate, not knowing it is the truth.

As my finger bent towards firing, he looked up for just a moment. It was a moment that passed with the semblance of a sparrow and a hawk in divine immobility in mid air, an apparition of death's hesitation. It is a moment between heartbeats.  Hesitation can not live there, nor fear or any other question of the spirit. It's a time for sure and certain knowing, somewhere deep within you, outside of rational thought, that by your hand, the deer will drop to a forested plain, the bird will fall from the sky. My finger stopped. Then he was gone, like a small lightning bolt on earth muddled hoof, striking through the underbrush with a crash.

He was just a yearling, and though for that moment I was tempted to fire, he had not lived long enough to fight for that life, and I was not ready to take that from him. For another time, perhaps, there would be that road.  For today, there is only the proof in the eyes and heart of a living woman of what happened that did not, but only for a touch of a finger and a word, which is our honor.
In the years since this hunt I have learned that there is an unspoken conversation with death between the hunter and their prey. Mors ultima linea rerum est, death is every thing's final limit. Just as it is with the wolf and the rabbit, the outcome of my hunt is settled there, in that first moment of eye contact between two adversaries. In that micro spasm of moment, there is a exchange of information regarding the propriety of the chase, of the worthiness of the kill. A conversation, of not just history, but of mortality.

So it is, outside of those pistols I have for self defense,  most of my firearms are antiques, guns with history, soldiers guns, police officers guns.  Go to the gun show and  tables of new AR15's are interesting, like a 20 year old in shorts is interesting. But give me the tables of Mausers, of Colts, of wood and flint and powder, the galloping thunder of guns which have fired through the fading fury of smoke into the night as somewhere a sparrow falls from the sky.

I don't care if my safe is full of plastic and shiny and new. Our lives are sublets anyway, and too quickly gone. Give me something with history, something of strength and purpose and years, that will give as much back as I can possible give it in return. Not everyone understands.
How do you explain to someone whose life is driven by "what will the neighbor's think", that there are just some things essential to you, that when you see them, you not only recognize them, you wish to experience. But I think it's probably the same thing I think when I see a woman's closet with a hundred pairs of shoes and think "why on earth would someone want a closet full of shoes?" If I won't ever understand that frame of reference, why would they grasp mine?

Of course, not everything that is used is useful, not everything of weight has measure. There will be things you find that end up costing you more than money. But you still seek those treasures that remain. You may find them on a table in a hall, you may find them in a house where they've been locked for far too long. You may find them just breathing, at that same moment in time where you are, two being on a small place on a planet spinning in space, destined to meet.

You realize then; that what you truly value, what truly makes ;you happy, is in such small moments, those places where the Trinity is intact, as if it had never been otherwise, simply tested by the bold fragility of youth and the passion of yearning. God lost and then found, postulated here in the open arms of our faith and need.
Too often we are blind to such moments, or we deliberately avoid them, with a deer in the crosshairs look, caught in that moment of life and motion, where if you do not do something, you will cease to live in that very moment between splendor and speed and the piercing of a heart.  And you choose to click on the safety and walk away, to thoughts of how it could have ended but for your inaction.

You choose and time passes. Days become weeks, becoming months and years. You think back to those places,  where those choices remained, looking up at trees that grew and bore  leaves, while others vanished, burned for warmth and need. But  you don't go back there.  It was just a place along your journey that exists only in the corner of your eye, as you try not and look.  Towards.  Always.

Then one day, you see something and your mind goes there again.  It may be on a table at a gun show, on the floor of a dealer, or simply there, viewed through an open door.  You look and remember. And like that moment in Jaws, where the camera looms in on Sheriff Brody, and the whole world focuses, it does. For just a moment. And you suddenly notice every little detail around you, the sun running straight and empty, like gash down the corridor, a tiny spider web there at the corner of the room, the sun piercing it, illuminating the empty spaces there between heart beats. And you see what it is you desire, held in that moment with conviction, that sense, that feeling of home.
And you know, you were meant to hold it, for just one moment, that small piece of your history, that large piece of yourself you never knew you needed. And you reach for it, one of those impulses, inscrutable yet unassailable which occurs at intervals in all of us, driving us to set down the known and the safe, and seek the possession of something rare, blind to everything but hope and fate.

Or you can just push it away, leave it behind, common sense taking over, and go home quietly to die.

You won't do that a second time.

For you are like I am, and some night when you are old, you will lay in that tent, that old firearm by your side, unable to sleep, but quiet and peaceful, listening to the nights whisper. The past was your future, but you couldn't taste it until, it too was past. Anything else was an illusion. You lay there without regret, for seeking that which you needed, that moment of time, when history and fate were held in your hand and you knew what you wanted. Perhaps it was just a moment, before you set it aside, perhaps you made it yours for a lifetime, but in that moment in which  you were joined, it was grace.

A need so necessary, part of the history that remains.

10 comments:

  1. I have looked into my heart and as I age I know, I know what is precious to me. Yes I have some interesting things, things that go boom and have history or things that drive or have flown.

    It is not these that precious , it is my family , my friends , my brothers in arms, my horses, my dogs, My country , God, my Branch of the Service, and experiences far a field with brothers in arms , who with our bond we came back . Some did not , I will never forget you , and know this all who have passed on before , I still weep for you , and laugh , and you are precious to me.

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  2. Beautiful... Just beautiful... We may have been rode hard, and put up wet more than once, but we have LIVED our lives... No excuses, no do overs, and a head and heart full of memories...

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  3. Allergies must be bad here. A little leaky around the eyes right now.

    New things in and of themselves in this disposable age mean little. Things that have stood the test of time and have stories associated with them mean much.

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  4. Bravo B:
    It's good to see some one trying to keep the past in the present with grace.

    Suerte

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  5. I share Keads allergies.

    And, I used to sport white Levis - no more.
    It seemed every time I wore a pair, I'd attend an EYEtalian restaurant, and drop a meatball!

    My fly resembled a Japanese Zero insignia - said meatball always avoided or penetrated the napkin.

    gfa

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  6. I keep bumping into thoughts along the lines in this post recently, must be lessons I should be paying attention to.

    I'd take this a bit further - these objects of great history and quality should be respected and loved and USED. I know so many who collect and yet have never put them to use in order to preserve them longer/forever. They sit in cases, drawers, safes, closets, boxes, or inside our heads. Unseen. They range from fashion to function to expressions, various amounts of money value. Preserving things of quality, with a history, or our core beliefs, is great as long as it can continue to be of some form of use. Maybe it's because I associate burying (hiding, locking away) it as being shamed somehow, and maybe I've over thought much of this lately.

    We should always keep and treasure these things. Celebrate them. Just as we should always keep our beliefs in how to live our lives in daily practice. Let em show, let em be useful, awhile longer. Backstories/history/memories can only come from some sort of action.

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  7. Wonderful post, B... This tugged at a few (too many) memories, but it also seemed that it was a call to examine them with more compassion. Thank you for that reminder.

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  8. Mors ultima linea rerum est, death is every thing's final limit. Just as it is with the wolf and the rabbit, the outcome of my hunt is settled there, in that first moment of eye contact between two adversaries. In that micro spasm of moment, there is a exchange of information regarding the propriety of the chase, of the worthiness of the kill. A conversation, of not just history, but of mortality.

    So many hunters do not understand this, but everybody should. It's the essence of morality and, thus, life. The hunt is where a lot of us first come to it, and it makes us better people -- or worse, I suppose, depending on what we choose.

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  9. I always feel a twinge of lust each time you post pics of that silverhawk.

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  10. I refused to laugh at the beginning (maybe because I'm in the library?), and was rewarded with the rest, to which I nodded agreement and admiration.

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