In our family’s archery cosmology, there are many ways to make a good shot.
Your arrow can fly straight and smooth, loosed from the runway of your fingers like a bird fleeing a cat. If you overshoot your target, but your aim is perfect, someone’s still likely to say, “Nice one.” There’s also beautiful form, on which the kids coach me (“Look at the target, Mama, not your hand”) and which I’ll always accept with a flush of amazed gratitude because it’s reassuring to watch your children outstrip your skills. You’ll even be recognized simply for not getting permanently discouraged when your arrow fizzles mid-flight, nose-diving 5 feet from the target, again.
It’s Father’s Day and we’re on a family bow shoot in the fragrant, shade-streaked woods, moving together in semi-organized unity. We all shoot handmade bows, and I like the look of the smooth, bendy wood in our hands. The ancient humanity of it isn’t lost on me, nor the relief that the kids’ fingers aren’t yet clutched around electronic rectangles from which they’ll someday access a more complex, fraught human experience.
The kids both take aim at a rotting stump and then solicitously, as if I were stooped and fragile, lead me in closer. There’s an ordinary sacredness to this day, the kind you’d miss if you weren’t the type to feel nostalgic for the moment that just passed.
On a Venn diagram of our individual passions, our circles seem to be moving farther apart. There’s not a sliver of overlap between Col’s fondness for Nerf guns and my interest in wildflowers. Dan’s tolerance for the undeodorized smells of wild animals, alive or dead, hasn’t acclimated him to the offensive nasal sting of Rose’s nail polish. And vice versa.
What we do enjoy together is increasingly precious. This is why we clear the calendar to watch the NBA finals, all of us gathered around the laptop, alternately cheering and biting our nails. Or, why we foster puppies, unified in ushering little creatures toward their forever homes. Or, why I still read to the kids before bed, a beloved ritual, someday obsolete.
As the kids’ inner and outer lives become more complex, joining together for low-stakes fun (i.e., no one’s trying to have a serious discussion about feelings) in the peaceful setting of the woods brings us back to a simpler time. Plus, the hermit thrushes are singing, elk meat is marinating in a cooler and Rose is pointing out the next target – that dark dirt mound behind a rotting stump.
“You mean that little grouse poking its head up?” Dan asks.
“No, Daddy, it’s a turkey,” Rose says, and slams her arrow into it.
We roam the forest for another hour and then head back to our car where Rose makes a fire and Col wanders around seeking spruce sap, irresistibly flammable, to coat the ends of sticks.
I crack a beer, start piecing together shish kabobs and think, “I could do this forever.” And then I realize, we have been.
Col returns with sap, starts conducting fire experiments and responds to our safety admonishments with, “You guys are so parent-noid.”
Really, it’s such a short time that we’re all together in this particular configuration of family. Who knows how the Venn diagrams of our lives will continue to coalesce and separate; what will remain and what will fall away. We grill and devour the kabobs, share a little chocolate and I read to the kids while they gaze into the fire.
“It’s going to be such a great drive back,” says Rose, who’s good at anticipatory happiness. “We’re gonna be all full and fat and happy.”
Reach Rachel Turiel at email@example.com. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.