As a young man wandering the high-mountain trails, I fished, hunted, and trapped much of my food—and sometimes, even with the quarry in the sights of my rife, I went hungry.
Shortly after I was discharged from the military at 18 years of age, I headed for the high country. I had been alone in the mountains for a almost two weeks and had been subsisting on fried grasshoppers, crayfish, and trout. Game seemed to have vanished, taking their tracks with them. Finally, after three days without food, I found the fresh sign of a deer, and without hesitation, I began tracking it. Following its trail was easy. Being quiet was difficult, however, because the country was so dry that everything crackled underfoot even though I was wearing moccasins, which muffled the sounds of my steps.
I track the deer for several hours as its trail led me up through the spruce-fir forest into clumps of subalpine firs interspersed with small meadows. It was late afternoon when I slipped into a clump of subalpine firs and, peering through their boughs on the far side, saw the deer, a magnificent buck. I stood motionless, watching it, feeling the warmth of the sun, seeing the wispy clouds sweeping clean the great, blue vault of the sky. Somewhere a Swainson thrush called, its liquid melody drifting on the soft breeze. Flies buzzed. A hawk screamed. I stood in a moment of Cosmic perfection, a moment in which I disappeared into the nothingness from which all creation comes and into which all creation returns.
“My brother,” I whispered quietly, “today I go hungry, for today is a day for you to live. If I see you tomorrow, I will feast on your body, but not today.” I then turned and walked away without the deer’s ever knowing I was there. I never saw it again.
Text © by Chris Maser 2010. All rights reserved.