It’s easy, terribly easy, to watch the news and become demoralized.  It’s easy to look at retirement account statements and be frustrated.  There are so many things we can’t control, so many things everyone else wants to control for us, and so precious little we can do about any of it.

So I took a sanity break.  While my wife Jan enjoyed girl-tiem with our daughter, Elysa; while my boys played basketball with a friend, I slipped back in time and off to the woods.

We live in the rural South.  We have a large expanse of thick forest on our property.  Even as a child, I would find myself wandering in the woods on day-hikes.  I suppose I haven’t changed much.

I gathered up my small pack, my trusty CZ 452 .22 rifle, the beautiful knife Jan gave me for Christmas, and set off through the brambles with only the company of our dogs.

Now, dogs know a good time, so they were ready to go.  We broke through vines and limbs, over downed tree-trunks and down the hill.  Along the way, as is my habit, I stopped to look for more of the beautiful quartz arrowheads I’ve found on our land (along with Cherokee pottery shards).

There’s something so liberating about it all.  Rifle in hand, dogs at the side, no one else nearby.  The dogs and I stopped in a creek, fed from the springs on our hillside. While they lounged and drank the clear water, I used my Woodman’s Pal (a must for any outdoorsman) and cleared some of the thick laurel and blackberry vines.  Then, I poked around in the stream-bed, looking for more arrowheads, and for the gold that is supposed to come from these mountains.  Gold is supposed to be found with quartz, and if the quartz is any indication, the gold should be here by the truck!

I found a few flecks of what I think is gold.  I found some rocks that may have been shaped by ancient hands.  Crouching there in the stream, overhung by trees and the old, dead grass of winter, I imagined all the men and women who must have passed that way over the past hundreds of years.  Crouching, looking, drinking, sifting the beautiful stones, eating, loving, dreaming.  Doubtless, their dogs lay nearby too, alert and servile.  Their spear lay nearby like my rifle, ready for game or annoyance, whichever appeared first.

I packed up and went on my way.  Following the stream I came to the place the kids and I last played, the place we dubbed ‘Dante’s Creek,’ after Jan’s beautiful lab/dane mix, Dante, who loves to splash in the cool, shaded water while the children climb trees and explore, all under the watchful eyes of dog and papa.

I found my way home, shot a few rounds at cans in the back yard, just to keep proficient.  I put up my pack and settled in to a cozy evening of Valentine’s Day movies with Jan, my love, my Valentine, since 1983.  I felt a kind of calm.

The world can take a lot.  But not everything.  It can’t take our hearts and souls, which belong to the Maker of all the wonder.  It can’t take our wonder and love of exploration.  It  can’t take adventure, or creeks, dogs or stones, cool winter air or the love of wife and children.

Never forget that our labels are only that.  I’m a doctor…but in my heart, somewhere, I’m always poking through the woods, rifle slung, looking for…heck, I don’t know what; just looking.

So take your own sanity break.  And try to find the things the world can’t crush out of you.

Rifle, knife and dog optional.


PS  Here are links for two items I highly recommend:

One of the finest cutting, survival implements ever made; once used by the USMC in the Pacific campaign of WWII.  Virtually indestructible, though my dogs find the leather sheath irresistible.

Without doubt one of the most accurate, functional .22 rifles I’ve ever had the privilege of owning.  This one has a European style stock, which I like, but they make an American stock.  The great thing about a gun like this is that it is so functional and pleasing to the eye that with it, you can imagine you’re on safari in Africa, even if you’re just looking for squirrels.

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