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By David cabella
For a boy of ten, the Western Nebraska prairie stretching beyond my childhood home seemed to last forever. I knew there were mountains to the west. I had seen them. I had climbed steep trails and waded the freezing water of unnamed creeks with my mother or father and often a few of my siblings. I found adventure in those mountains. And for a boy of ten, adventure equaled joy. And that, which I am sure was often fully displayed upon my face, I believe is why my parents worked so hard to expose us to adventure. Without question they loved the outdoors themselves, but is it not the greatest happiness of a parent to give joy to their child?
Whenever a storm would gather from those distant mountains in the west, we could see it coming, building and turning the sky gray before dusk. Lighting would flash and thunder would growl as if its anger were directed squarely at our little town. The thing I remember most about those storms is that we knew they were coming. Even without the benefit of radar or sophisticated alert systems, we knew. We knew because we could see it. They always came. And still, they seemed to hit suddenly as if we failed to believe the clouds or the lightning or the thunder.
I also remember fear almost choking me during such natural displays of light and sound and force. I remember feeling as if I could not escape, as if a tornado might tear through our living room and rip us away from our home and into the churning darkness. It was precisely during those moments, when I would move closer to the protection of my parents. I would feign courage, but my questions about when we should move to the basement surely gave me away. Dad never seemed worried. His peacefulness during such storms always gave me comfort.
And so it happened that when he was still living and storms would inevitably pop up, I would pick up the phone just to hear the calm in his voice when the world seemed to be crumbling around me. Often the storms were of my own making and sometimes I did not even have to tell him what they were. I just had to talk to him, because talking to him helped.
After leaving home to test the limits of freedom, I wasted a few years and spent little of that time hunting. When I did, it was usually a mid-morning hunt for doves or pheasants with a few friends. When I traveled home for the holidays, we always hunted and it was mostly like it used to be even though Dad was less prone to bless us with his wisdom without direct questions. Instead, he usually remained quiet with an expression of what I can now only describe as contentment.
When my siblings and I had all moved away, my parent’s desire for adventure and exploration seemed to intensify. Instead of hauling all of us to the corn fields or the mountains or the lake, they ventured off to some of the most exotic places I had ever heard of; Ethiopia, Mongolia; Australia; Tanzania; Alaska; Cameroon; New Caledonia; and Argentina, just to name a few. However, it was those places in Africa which seemed to tug at their hearts and call them back again and again.
I could see the allure. I had read some of the same stories that had inspired them and they were exciting. But I am not sure I understood it. Why did they have to go to places so far away to find adventure when we had been able to find plenty of it so close to home? I think they sensed these questions from their children, because they began to invite us. When we were young, they drug us to Yellowstone or the goose pit because they wanted to share with their children the satisfaction and life lessons those places gave them.
So when they began venturing further away from home, their invitations to join them should not have surprised us. My father once suggested to me that history’s first hunters lived in Africa. He believed that when you tracked the same game our ancient brethren
tracked you could not help but feel as if you were one of them. The moment you are in absorbs you. Your past stays where it belongs and tomorrow truly belongs to God. You embrace the moment that has been given you and you are grateful for it. My father hunted for the challenge, for the adventure, for the relationships it fosters, and for the very personal satisfaction of pursuing the creatures God has blessed us with. He and my mother loved us enough that they wanted to share those things with us.
So these two people who taught us to live in the moment by introducing us to the outdoors were not done sharing themselves with us. And they shared with their actions. They shared by inviting us into their lives. You see, to tell someone you love them might take a little courage, but to show someone you love them takes effort. It takes giving of yourself. It takes sacrifice.
It was in Zambia during my first African safari with my parents when I realized my father hunted the way he lived. It was the same way he participated in the Mass—with patience, quiet perseverance, and focus. He gave himself to the moment and often he allowed that moment to belong to one of his children. He found joy in our success, satisfaction in our efforts, and had compassion for us during our storms.
So as I sat in a leopard blind for the first time with the sunlight disappearing and my new wife sitting quietly beside me, I tried to give myself fully to that moment. But when shrieking baboons behind us signaled the spotted cat’s approach, I could not help but wish my father was there with me. It had been in a different kind of blind, listening to Canada geese approach from the north, so many years ago when he had introduced me to the beauty of hunting.
The darkness that night came like one of those western Nebraska storms. I saw it coming. I knew it was coming. And still it was as if it took us by surprise. Essentially blinded by the limitations of human sight, we listened as two leopards growled and prowled merely inches from our blind. We could sense the danger. We could hear their closeness. Falsely or otherwise, we could feel them threatening us. I once again feigned courage, but nobody could see me so it was only to fool myself. We were never in any real danger that night, but it felt like it.
When my first night in a leopard blind ended, I could not wait to get back to camp where my father, with a knowing smile on his face, listened as I retold the story over and over. Like so many times in my life, I was so busy talking about me that I failed to hear the bits of wisdom or realize the looks of love he patiently interjected around the campfire each night.
Many years after that night, my father’s example and God’s boundless grace, steered me toward a more prayer-centered life. Yet I often am so busy asking for this or that or talking about myself that I fail to hear the whispers or realize the love of my Father or show gratitude to Christ for drawing me closer. But when the darkness drapes around me and the storms I know are coming release their fury, God is there waiting with the peace and wisdom and love only He can give.