Listen Closely

Everything has a rhythm.

It’s the whistle of wings overhead. The faint honk of a faraway goose. The gentle rustle and crunch of leaves under paw or hoof. It’s the sound of your own bated breath, shallow and unwilling.

In the fields and the woods, along the water’s edge we sit, listening closely. Silent, still. yellowstonelittlecamera-207

Well, most of us. I am still somewhat new to hunting, and it is no secret in my parties that I am not especially good at sitting perfectly still, or remaining perfectly silent. I have gotten better, but I doubt the day when I am considered ‘stealthy’ will ever arrive.

What I am learning is how to become quiet. Not silent, not still. Quiet. Silence is theimg_2922 absence of sound. Still, the absence of movement. The quiet I speak of is a state of listening, of receiving the world around you. There is no absence in this state; instead, there is abundance.

There is a knowledge our modern selves often forget, an awareness of the natural world and our relation to it. We are subject to constant input in this 24/7 world, pressed into continual connection with a culture that has become quite lonely. All this noise around us, it is no wonder the subtle rhythms of the wild get drowned out.

Hunters have an advantage in escaping the bombardment of modernity. When we venture into the woods, out to the blind, or across the grasslands, we are not expected to bring the noise with us. To find our prey, in fact, we are expected to be silent. Here, it is easier to find the space in our minds to become quiet. To begin to really listen, understand, and reconnect with an older version of our humanity.

Though it may help us in our quests, hunters are not the only humans that need this skill.

1019151749a22The Mr. and I keep bees. Your first thought is probably that we must get lots of honey, and how nice that must be. Nope! We are coming into our third year with hives and have harvested about 3 pints since starting this adventure. This is no failing on the part of our bees, you see – they produced hundreds of pounds of honey last summer. But they did it to ensure the colony had food through the winter, and even if the coming spring is cold and cruel, there will be enough to start the next generation off strong. Each worker bee works herself to death providing for a future she will never see.

It’s never been about the honey for us. The improved yields from the garden are fantastic, but they, too, are secondary. Bees are remarkably fascinating, organized and seemingly intelligent beyond the bounds of mere bugs. They are also a species at a crossroads. We keep bees in a way that supports genetic diversity, tolerance to pests, and survivorship. Our goal is to someday be keeping bees that do not, in fact, need to be kept. We are trying to weave a stronger thread back into the web of life that surrounds us.

Our bees will surely create a bumper crop of honey at some point, and we will be able to harvest many pounds of that liquid sunshine without compromising the bees’ ability to feed themselves.

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But until that day, we are perfectly content to sit by a hive and listen to the rhythm of the colony – the workers as they buzz past, to and from the fields of forage, and the drones, circling clumsily, thumping into any obstacle in their path. Just as the hive hums the vibrant tones of life, ethereal and energetic, so too does the wider world. The old rhythms that ties us back to the land, the seas and skies – they are alive and well, waiting for us to listen closely.

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