On the hard, cold winter days, when the wind lies still, you can better hear the echoes of the voice of nature. Even if you avoid duck blinds like the plague and focus your deer efforts on the afternoon, it’s worth making an early appointment just to hear it.
Come December, when the insects have gone into hiding and the snakes are long since underground, the still, quiet of the morning speaks with a voice that’s been there all along. In the summer it’s lost behind the jay birds and cicadas. Fall covers the sound with our own excitement. Mosquitoes drown it out come spring.
In the winter, though, under blue-white stars over a frosty ground, in the last hour before the eastern sky begins to glow, there’s a hush of anticipation. Beyond what the hunter may hope, the will of a land laid by for winter is on plain display. It’s something I try to teach my children to enjoy.
Mornings come early enough for little ones, and mornings in the icy, black dark are especially hard. Once they’ve been rolled out of bed against their will and better judgement, cajoled into more clothes than they can be convinced they’ll possibly need then hauled down the road in the dark, keeping up a conversation to keep them awake is the next challenge. It’s a challenge especially hard for me.
I’m barely a conversationalist at the best of times, and my early mornings are anything but. Always have been. I know where we’re going and why, but it’s tiresome to talk about it before the fifth cup of coffee kicks in. Still it’s necessary because, if they go back to sleep during the ride, you’ll have the out-of-bed struggle to fight all over again.
Out on their feet and into the dark, waving flashlight beams about in just the way an experienced outdoorsman wouldn’t, crunching leaves, playing in frost, you can see hope for the day for the first time. It’s worth whatever a little latitude costs to get their enthusiasm engine going. Besides, a few minutes’ silence will restore all the peace they’ll need.
I can’t tell them what to hear, no more than Ican say how to feel the right amount of lead on a teal or explain what it’s like when your eye catches the motion of the squirrel you knew you’d heard. But when their questions cease for a bit, you can tell they caught its whisper. When their squirming is abated and their restlessness finally lies calm like the wind, you know they hear it too. God speaks to us in these times with a voice that tells us He’s always been there. What happens after the sun comes up doesn’t matter much then. We’ve heard what we came to hear.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.