For the last several days, I was lucky enough to have slipped away from the busyness of life and all the things that occupy the time of a pastor/fishing guide/seminary student/husband/father of 3…and instead, walk the fields of South Dakota hunting pheasants. Pheasant hunting is a lot like fishing…you walk the fields and hold on to your 12 gauge shotgun waiting for a bird to rise. And when that explosion and flutter of wing sounds as the bird rises above the corn field its the same thrill as when a fish takes the line and your rod “goes off” in your hand. This is why you hunt or fish…to be in nature and feel the absolute explosion of pure thrill as your senses go to full alert.
For me, I also hunt to spend time with my father. My dad Dave is an outdoorsman and whether it is pheasant hunting or salmon fishing or duck hunting or clam digging, he loves to be in nature too. His great-grandfather, John Cobain Sund, came from Norway and settled on Hood Canal and ran tug boats his whole life. This is my blood line…men of the sea who are as at home on a boat as they are on land. More comfortable catching a fish than sitting inside an office. I am thankful for these connections to the natural world that have been established from birth.
This week as we hiked the rolling flatlands of the prairie chasing pheasants that were more prolific than I’ve ever seen before in my entire life, I was also mindful that these days of hunting with my father will not last forever. Things like this can’t last, and sometime in the future my dad’s body will slow down where hiking and shooting will be beyond him. I hope this is a very long time for now, but whether it is in two years or twenty, this time will pass. This is also why we hunt or fish, because we can. Because it is how a father and son can bond, being side by side in pursuit of one of God’s creations.
I remember the same feeling years back as I watched my Uncle Larry as he rowed me down the Sol Duc River of the Olympic Peninsula. At the time he had been diagnosed with a rare form of slow-growing cancer and although he seemed healthy as he rowed me down the river chasing steelhead, there were hints that his health was slipping away from him. I lost my uncle, my only blood uncle, two years ago this January. I had a feeling that the time of him and I rowing down a river couldn’t last- and it couldn’t.
We like to live as if we’ll live forever. We like to think we have all the time in the world to pursue our hobbies and passions and often we push them aside for the “more essential” tasks like our pressing to-do’s and endless work. But this week in South Dakota I was reminded that our time is short, and sometimes it is good to step away from the city and go into nature to experience time as father and son. I will make this time with my kids as they get older too. We must…because before we know it…time will slip from us and we’ll say things like “I wish we would have gone fishing together more” or “I wish we would have taken that trip to Dakota we always wanted to.” Do it. The time is now. Step outside and explore God’s world with someone you love. While you can.