KEVIN TATE: Life is best lived out in the places where the critters go

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

What’s in a life? What really? Experiences, moments, memories, things we’ll always treasure and carry with us. Things we only wish we could leave behind.
There’s magic in life, in its blessings, in its drama, but what do we see when we look back? What do we hope for when we look ahead? Too often, everything we see is divided entirely between these two, the here and now left overlooked. That’s where the outdoors come in.
Away from the pavement, in the places where the critters go, there’s a readymade focus on the given moment that commands our attention, requires us to slow down, gives us pause.
High in the Rockies or on a desert plateau, on the open waters of a big reservoir or along the banks of our favorite creek near home, the landscape insists we pay attention. The mud that weighs on our boots, the mountain incline that slows our step, the briars and fence wire that hinders our path, doesn’t that feel like God tugging at our elbow, bidding us slow down and breathe deep, to not only look, but to see?
I’ve known for a long time I spend far too many daylight hours looking forward, far too many sleepless nights looking back. Meanwhile, the joys of life are passing unseen through the here and now.
Like most things in life, though, the solution need not be complicated. It’s true one of the best ways to really master how to do something is to teach it to another person.
Maybe the best way to see all the small wonders for ourselves again is to show them to someone else. Whether it’s finding the places deer use to enter a field or picking out just the right spot for a spread of mallard decoys, talking about why things in nature are just so helps remind us of our own place in it all.
High in the tops of oak and hickory trees spread along a hardwood bottom, somewhere in the rolling hills of our part of the state, squirrels bark and chase. The telltale patter of husks and shells falling to the leaves below, as if from a small rain cloud with only a single downspout, point to the location of another squirrel unseen. A spot and stalk hunt like this is a great introduction to the outdoors. It’s also a great welcome home.
Whatever the game or the season, our chances to enjoy it all once again are nearly at hand. Deer season begins again next Saturday, and a host of small game seasons stand by to get under way.
This fall, no matter what your game, don’t miss a chance to receive the gift of the here and now. Maybe that’s why they call it the present.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.