It was supposed to be little more than me renewing the tradition of me joining the legacy of my family and so many other Wisconsin souls when I walked out of our farmhouse that November Saturday morning.
The opening of Wisconsin’s deer hunting season was at-hand, and I was respectfully going to take my place on a stump to watch for whitetails.
I wouldn’t be too intense or business-like with the hunt, as has been my personal tradition. I’d cross the farmyard and mosey through some light brush and trees and reach that favorite stump on the back-side of our little woodlot behind our barnyard. I’d sit there for a couple of hours to casually watch for signs of deer in the Timber Creek Valley and the neighboring ridge.
Mine is the ilk that I’ll harvest a deer if one happens past, but I won’t be disappointed if a deer doesn’t appear.
Daylight was just tickling the east horizon as I crossed the farmyard. That first light drew my eyes to the sky, where I saw the sex of a waning quarter-moon – there, my imagination picturing my beautiful Dee witting and, with a winking smile, tantalizingly waving a dangled leg toward me.
I reached the stump and kept glancing at the moon and the hues of red, orange and blue that would become the day’s sunrise.
The warmth in that gentle light and the pastels it gently stroked onto the clouds and the sky behind then started to filter down onto me. It seeped through the clothing I’d layered beneath my orange hunting gear to protect me from the morning’s chill; that warmth penetrated to my heart.
The pastel painting grew above as the sun’s fierce light drew nearer to the horizon and pushed farther into the sky. The colors were soft poetry salad-layered in blue-over-purple-over-black-over-red-over-gray-over-orange-over-red.
The sky brightened, and then the light lowered itself onto the tree branches that had been left dark since the earth claimed their leaves. The light ran down the trees’ branches and then trunks, and then turned the valley’s and ridge’s tall-grown grass to khaki. And then, it covered the ridge’s frost-covered floor to melt the white frost into a carpet of late-November green grass.
I hadn’t noticed past my awe that the light also had bled over me.
But then, I felt it.
And I felt the spirit.
The spirit reached down through those still-brightening pastels in the sky and finger-walked across the ridge and over the creek and then right up to my boots.
The spirit turned its palms to the sky and reached out to comfort me. It caressed my head and my shoulders in the warmth of its hands.
It reached its arms around me and gently pulled me into a reassuring hug.
The spirit wordlessly suggested I open to it my heart, mind and soul. I complied, and the spirit entered me.
The sky and land smiled in the realization of the morning’s full brightness, knowing they’d given to me a spiritual comfort as I’d never known.
I was safe.
I was home.
I’d met a spirit I never understood; it had been there all along but had never been such a part of me.
There it had lived, in the land and the trees and the grass and the corn and water and the sky.
My soul smiled.
The countryside stilled just then; all fell silent.
And then, a cock pheasant crowed his early morning approval of the day and a busy gray squirrel chattered its gossipy agreement.
A jay landed on a nearby branch and scolded me with its admonishment to never forget that moment I’d met the spirit. I nodded my head and smiled in our covenant.
My many years of life and the years of religious education had left me believing that I’d known about the spirit, and that my spiritual beliefs were in the right places. But that wasn’t the case.
Other people have met their spirit in different ways and in many forms. I knew on that day before the 63rd anniversary of my birth, that I’d met my true spirit.
That day, I found my own spirit and peace while seated on a stump at our beloved little farm.
That day, the spirit came of the land and the trees and the grass and the corn and water and the sky.
I’ll allow others of more religion than I to debate the spirit’s source, what it should be called and how it should be praised; some will tell me what they think I should know about the spirit. I’ll choose to allow all of that to pass by, though, because I know where my spirit is and what I know and feel when it touches me.
There, on that stump in our woods, the spirit and I communed. There, we shall continue to commune.
— Scott Schultz