“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” -Maya Angelou
I came across this quote last week in one of the many “Thanksgiving” emails that were flooding my inbox. There, in the midst of emails about “why we eat turkey, how to cook a turkey and turkey trivia,” was this simple quote from American poet Maya Angelou. It is a beautiful quote and one filled with truth.
It’s the kind of truth that really started to hit home for me around the age of fifty and, with each passing year, a truth that seems to become more and more clear to me. It is also, if I am honest, something that I struggle mightily with almost daily, especially the being present part.
Being present and “in the moment” in all things seems to grow increasingly more difficult each day. It seems that we are always connected, and that connection becomes almost an addiction. We crave it, and each email, text or social media post seems to feed it.
I remember a time as a child when the news, both local and national, came in the evening. During those days, I was the “remote control” that changed the channel (with my hand after walking across the room).
These days, however, the news is 24/7. We are always connected via any number of media outlets through the wonders of cable, satellite and cellular unless we make it a point to unplug. That “unplugging” is one of the things for which I am most thankful in this season of Thanksgiving.
For me, the outdoors has always been my escape, my refuge from the worries of the world. Once upon a time, in a pre-smartphone world, those worries seemed much more simple: how to afford a dinner and a movie date turned into to how to afford diapers and formula, which then turned to how to afford cars and college, and hopefully one day, how to afford retirement.
Through all of these transitions, I have ventured into the great outdoors as my sanctuary at different times and for different reasons ranging from stress relief to solace. It has been and always will be my “reset button.”
Time in the outdoors, be it hunting, fishing, hiking or backpacking, has always held healing, cleansing and restorative properties for me. In many ways, I liken it to going to church. It is a time of communing with the Creator.
This past Saturday was a special day, a day toward which I always look forward with great anticipation: the opening day of gun season for white-tailed deer in East Central Mississippi.
The forecast called for temperatures in the low 30s, and although it also promised to be windy in our part of the state, I couldn’t wait for my first morning in the woods.
Standing in the dim light of the kitchen Saturday morning as I waited for the water to boil for my morning coffee, my thoughts drifted to all the things I needed to get done at the farm prior to the arrival of our family and friends for Thanksgiving.
From there, my thoughts drifted to gas prices and inflation and supply chain issues and COVID-19 until, suddenly (and thankfully), I was drawn back into the moment by the shrill whistle of the tea kettle sounding its alert.
I poured my coffee and walked out into the cold air of early morning to defrost my truck before making the drive to the woods. Later, after I parked the truck and sat enjoying the last of my coffee in the dim glow of the dashboard light, I thought about the Maya Angelou quote.
As I made my way along the road to the stand at which I had chosen to hunt that morning — the High Road stand — I continued to ponder the poet’s words about being both present and thankful in all things.
Those words were still running through my mind as the first hints of daylight started to appear in the east, and as I watched the sun rise on another opening day in Mississippi, I thought about another morning, another sunrise and the words of another famous author.
I often carry a book with me into the woods to read in the quiet solitude. Last year, while reading William Faulkner’s “Big Woods” collection in the same High Road stand, I came across these words: “But you can’t be alive forever, and you always wear out life long before you have exhausted the possibilities of living.”
Those words from “The Old People” were and are a beautiful reminder of the importance of living in the moment. Later that morning, I took my biggest buck to date, and while that moment didn’t repeat itself this past Saturday, I did enjoy a glorious sunrise and a Thanksgiving celebration with our Creator in His wonderful creation, and for a time, I didn’t think about the price of bacon.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I hope you get the opportunity to press your “reset button” this week with friends and family, and until next time, I look forward to seeing you out there in our great outdoors.
Email outdoors columnist Brad Dye at email@example.com.