October Outdoors Prompts Birthday Reflections
Birthdays after half a century tend to get your attention.
We call it the zero syndrome, meaning that birthdays, the ones with a zero such as 30, 40, or 70, tend to get more reflection than just your everyday 19 or 33.
The early zeros don’t count except perhaps as a measuring tool, kinda to see where you are in the world and compare with where you thought you’d be. After you pass that magic 50, though, time becomes more valuable, and the sand in the hourglass seems to drain faster.
I was doing some of that soul searching recently at one of our favorite places, Huntington Beach, S.C. Indian summer had arrived as never before with October high temperatures mirroring those in August. That was OK with me, although the extended warm weather played havoc with surf fishing.
Linda and I were camped in the little Airstream right near the northern entrance to the beach, a great spot. I had put up the screen tent in the back of our camp, and my routine included getting up at the crack of dawn and walking out to the beach, fishing until the sun cast a 10 o’clock shadow, then heading back to camp for breakfast and a snooze in the screen room in my gravity chair. Not a bad regimen.
October is a marvelous month not only because of my birthday, but because it opens another entirely different way to enjoy the outdoors.
September dove hunting does just enough to get my shooting eye right for the early season for ducks. This was running through my mind one morning as I watched the sun slowly rise out of the ocean to create another day. There is nothing like a deserted early fall beach with white, foam-topped waves slowly rolling in, slapping the sand and hissing back out to sea. The perpetual motion is soothing, almost hypnotizing, and does a great deal to encourage introspection.
I have another year before I reach the next big zero birthday, one that really promises to get me thinking; and as I cast out into the dark rolling surf, I thought about the immediate past year and how circumstances of life can change in a second.
All in all, things are fine. Retirement is even better than I thought it would be, and the family’s health continues to be good, knock on wood. I still enjoy my own company and am able to move about in the woods without much trouble. My granddad always said that as you get older, you get smarter. “Son, someday you’ll learn how to go around things rather than climb over ‘em.”
Even in my advanced years, there is still a lot that I want to do. In ’07, we had our first big retirement adventure driving to Alaska with the Airstream. I still dream about that expedition and what I would do differently if I could do it again. For one thing, I’d extend the trip. We were gone two months, not nearly enough time to take in that magnificent state. So why not, I thought, there’s nothing stopping us. So I’m going to put it on my list.
I want to get another puppy, a little butter soft, yellow lab, with great big black, all seeing eyes, a hunting partner that will be with me as we move toward that rocking chair era of life.
I added more and more items to my bucket list as the sun rose higher in the clear, bluebird sky. Time to head in for breakfast, I thought as my stomach grumbled a time or two. As I was gathering my gear for the trek back to the campsite, I remembered what John H., my good friend and hunting buddy from years past, said one day as we ended a particularly cold, hard duck hunt on the Chesapeake Bay.
“Tom,” he said, grimacing as he scraped the ice off the hood of his parker. “Wonder how many more years we’re going to be able to do this?”
My answer was the same then as it would be today: “John if we’re lucky, many, many more.”
Tom Bryant can be reached at email@example.com.
More like this story