Tom Petty was right: The waiting really is the hardest part.
Think about our upland life: we are constantly waiting for something. Good, bad, exciting, gratifying, terrifying … our time on this earth is a series of events punctuated by long intervals of anticipation and expectancy.
Pauses, intervals, in music we call them “rests,” but they’re anything but restful. Our heads and hearts abuzz with well, something (or a lot of somethings), while we bide time between until the “real” stuff comes our way.
But what do we do with those intervals? How is that “down time” spent (or misspent)? Why? This very essay was conceived while waiting – this time for a plane, but last time or next time waiting for a hunting companion or bird or well, you decide.
Put yourself in my place, or more accurately, places. What are you feeling when you see your dog slide into a point? Or in those brief moments when you walk alongside, anticipating wingbeats. That sweet, slow-motion time when the bird flushes and you can count every feather on both wings. Do you know of what I speak?
Many waits are not so joyous, but just as adrenaline-filled: Wings rock, bird over the horizon but did it go down? Young dog frantically paddling for shore in strong current, or a limp detected from far off … now what’s going through your mind?
Some are mere pauses, unworthy of heavy thoughts: a friend is late to a meeting spot, a dog readjusts his grip on a shot bird. But even those can stop a breath or two. That muffled – what? Wingbeats or dog shaking his head? Or the microsecond between shot and feather cloud … did I really hit that bird?
We wait for a pup’s lights to turn on and training to “take,” we ponder the meaning of the universe on the drive to a favorite cover. The imaginary clock ticks as judges scrutinize your dog at a field trial. Each has its own color, taste, smell, and we recall them readily with so little prompting.
Some tug at our heartstrings. We eagerly anticipate them. A panting mother-dog finally lies down to begin delivery, a pup’s first point, old guy’s slow ascent of a steep chukar hill, bird in mouth. Each has its own conclusion, settling some parts of our soul and stirring others. Some we prefer not even to think about – but we do. You know the ones, I don’t have to (or want to) elaborate as we’ll each come to them in due time.
Peaks, and valleys. Like geography, most pauses in our life are friendly, soft, gradual and easy … like a pheasant hunt. But every so often, a hurtling downward slide or lung-burning upward slog resembling chukar hunting. Each wait has its own character, like snowflakes, never the same.
Each interval, every pause, all the spaces between “real” events has its own character, a unique flavor. Nail-biting anticipation, thrumming suspense or keen hope, each needs a start, middle and end and can’t be rushed. They evolve organically, all of their own without our conscious intervention. Some waits are languid and relaxed, a study in low-key. Others are a foil of emotion and stimuli, with tears, shouts, mutters or fist bumps.
But the sweetest, the bitterest, the most gratifying and the saddest, most joyful and complete waits always involve our dogs.