Have you ever spent an entire November day in a tree stand? A cold, gray day when the clouds were spitting snowflakes, the big ones that could cover your entire eye. The cold begins to creep into your boots around 10:00 am, yet somehow, you find yourself climbing down after you tested your pins for the last time. The day brings you just enough action to keep you hoping, staying put, and flexing every muscle in your body to generate more heat. You know, packing up would be a chore because the dexterity in your fingers was gone hours ago. You realize you're so cold your elbows hurt as you let down your guard. The walk back to camp is as much an exercise to bend the bricks that have taken the place of your feet as it is an effort to get inside.
Then you see it. You knew you were going to. It's always there waiting. You've seen it many times before. The light from inside that starts as a slight yellow glow through the trees. It comes with the emotion of a warm welcome. Some days, it's hardly noticeable. Then, there are days when the feeling is tangible. There's usually a correlation between the emotion you feel and your pain from spending the day outside. The "walk back" is one of my favorite things. The end of a satisfying day well spent—the beginning of a warm, comfortable, and often short evening. If you're lucky, the smell of food greets you even before the warmth from the wood stove.
Season after season, year after year, decade after decade, the process of "getting down" and "walking back" has evolved into an experience of its own. It's something that I have always loved to do. Coming out of the woods at the end of the day with my bow is special for me. I hope to hold on to it for many years to come. I don't spend as many days in a tree stand as I used to when I was younger. My career and travel have narrowed my season. Maybe that's why I've become more aware of my deep fondness for the "walk out."
Here is a recent example. It's mid-October, and the weather has been seasonable and cool. A front came through this weekend, and by the time I got back home Sunday evening, the last of some light rain was passing through. After I built a fire inside, I changed out of my suit, put on a flannel, and went out into the dark to feel the cold. The light rain and the breeze quickly passed through my shirt. I intentionally make myself less than comfortable. Wanting to feel the cold, I stayed long enough for the rain to pass and a chill to set in.
My plan was to "stay put" until the weather forced me to turn around and make the very short "walk back." I turned to face the house, and there it was. A kitchen light and a warm fire waiting. I may not have had my bow, but I got what I wanted. The feeling of a "walk back" was there. No scrolling is necessary, and no dopamine is required—just the satisfaction of returning home to a warm fire.