Join the hunt
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
As native members of NE Michigan’s community, we well know to be cautious in the woods this time of year unless one is dressed in varying degrees of hi-vis orange or yellow. Hunting is the cycle of harvest that continues to feed families in our area as it also feeds the passions of those who engage it in earnest. Our lack of experience with this tradition growing up, however, led us to choose a different type of hunting; we think there are many ways to go about the same practice figuratively that can be equally as rewarding.
There were never rifles, buck knives or compound bows in our house as kids. There were no cartridges, arrows or traps. Not a hint of gear for hunting except for the things we camped with. Of all the grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends, only a handful participated in hunter safety and rolled into their blinds for the morning hunt on November 15. While we knew people hunted, they were simply not on our main radar but occupied the fringes of our extended clan. Coming as we do from this perspective, we were happy to get a holiday from school in honor of St. Antler’s Day. We could sleep in, and watch with a visceral kind of awe as cars and trucks passed by with deer of every size and shape strapped onto roofs or hoods or protruding from the bed of pickups.
With no real direct historical or familial connection to this annual event, we learned to hunt for other things – not to harvest a life, but to equally enrich our own lives in the pursuit of something wily, evasive and mysterious. This wasn’t so much a seasonal thing as it was a practice that helped – and continues to help – us appreciate what good hunters do:
They scout, plant and prepare an area where the animal lives. Similarly, we mapped the terrain of the imagination and set things down on paper or voice recorders or in pictures. We studied people and relationships, the natural world and its presence, and we looked for ways to capture it in a composition. We positioned ourselves. The same way in which hunters know when to be still, which way the wind is blowing and how to move about stealthily in darkness, we set about exploring the forest of ideas – where creatures of inspiration would lie in wait to reveal themselves to us if we were patient and still long enough. Whether we were writing songs or stories or plays or poems, we were hunting down the trophy: the piece that would move the audience in some noticeable way.
While we have both, in later years, been to hunting camps with friends and reveled in their preparation for glory, we did so from a distant perspective, shooting mental snapshots of a powerful NE Michigan tradition and ritual. A pursuit that is both solitary and communal. What we gathered from that removed distance helps us pursue our own game in a way that is equally as instinctual, as primal and as fulfilling.
There is no shortage of hunting metaphors in our lexicon. We are in the cross hairs, get back on track, stay on track and hunt/track things down. We are occasionally in a happy hunting ground and, often, everything is fair game. Whatever your quip, the hunt is real. For deep meaning and connection to the earth – for an intense exchange that can involve sacrifice and selection. For the quiet study of all that surrounds us so that we might have a chance to hit the target. And, as London suggests, we cannot wait for the inspiration of it. We must actively pursue it.