If there is any advantage of getting up sometimes at 4 a.m., it’s occasionally getting done in time to enjoy a little bit of last light, a short trek around the fields and trees that surround a friends home we were visiting. With a couple hours free before darkness drew a cape across the face of the moon, I had time for a long walk around the area, on some property of those friends. Time to gather my thoughts, ricocheting around inside my head with all that’s going on in the world. Time, after travel and busy days, for stillness and quiet, out among the cold and a few trees.
At the base of one tree was the trunk of another felled during the recent wind storm and for a moment I could stop and sit and think, just taking in the winter landscape. Had it been warmer I could have taken a nap there, leaning against the tree. I’ve done that while pheasant hunting, where I would set my gun down and exhausted from miles of walking, simply lean against a tree with a patch of sun tattooing my skin and sleep. My black lab would drop to her haunches at my side, sniffing the air for trouble, then doze himself, twitching to rabbity dreams.
As kids, my brother and I would sleep in the yard on many a starry night, dragging out the little pup tent, and setting it up under the canopy of the apple trees. We’d lie on our backs in our sleeping bags out on the grass, tracking satellites through the air and speculating on the nature of the heavens and why the plain Hershey bar was just better than the one with nuts in it. We were kids, and there were no worries, about death or taxes or bears or hydrophobic porcupines. We’d wake, ground cold and soggy with dew, and hike back those 10 yards to the house, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep yet energized with the joy of believing that we would live forever.
The woods still fascinate me. To be alone under a shelter of trees is divine. I know many that would not be so comfortable, not truly happy unless they are the center of attention, with lights and music and action. Not I. To drift alone in thought in the presence of the trees and the proximity of the earth is much of what I feel when I’m flying. In it I get a sense of the truly spiritual. Not in the traditional sense, but in the ablution that comes from placing one’s self at the altar of the planet, and for just a moment picking out a little infinity from the perpetually crushing teeth of time.
Life is fleeting and beautiful, yet I will fight strongly to hold onto it until the last dwindling dawn. I will quietly fight against others that would disparage me and my life. I will fight for those that wish to take the freedoms and liberty that those around me have worked so hard for. As these thoughts unbidden flit through my mind like the scattering of the sun against a few remaining leaves, I pat the gun on my hip and am thankful that I am free to carry it on land that I own as a free citizen.
Perhaps that is why I believe so strongly in the Second Amendment, a part of the U.S. Constitution that did not give us that right but AFFIRMED it. Was it not the rights of those that planted these lands, and their fathers before them, to carry arms to protect and preserve these plots of ground? Ground that they labored until death to maintain and preserve for the next generation. The land is precious, as are the fruits of our hard work. As I walk through the woods, I rest my hand on the wood that makes up the grip of my weapon, feeling the cold power of its strength, that in turn flows through my arm, emboldening my step. I walk boldly, a woman alone in a vacant field, knowing well that my gun may not be needed but for the day a politician tries to take it from me.
As I turn to head back to home the words of Benjamin Franklin come to me.
God Grant that not only the Love of Liberty, but a thorough Knowledge of the Rights of Man, may pervade all the Nations of the Earth, so that a Philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its Surface, and say, “This is my Country.”.
This IS my country, and THIS is my land. I believe that as strongly as I believe that I have the right to protect it, to protect myself from those that would wish to take it from me to share the wealth with those whose days have not known such labors as I. Selfish? No. I am part of this land, and it is part of me. I have earned the right to be here, and I will rest my ashes in its ancient depths when I am gone, when all the light of freedom gathers in one fierce expiring inhalation, time to go home to glory.
We’re almost home, a black Lab looking up at me from her enigmatic gaze as I move towards the door. Clouds move across the sun, water drips like blood but with no warmth, the lifeless chill which bears no kinship with the healing wet of holy waters. I quietly walk across the leaves that blanket the earth’s secret, carrying with me hope, history and the steel of eternal vigilance. I look up to the sky, thirsty roots sunk deep.