Outdoors Column

Faced with our own mortality

By Bill Howard | Feb 25, 2014
Photo by: File Bill Howard

At some point and time in one’s life, he is faced with his own mortality. It can start from a doctor’s diagnosis, a close call of an accident, or a loved one’s departure. It may even come in the form of a simple mid-life crisis where the thoughts start entering the mind that the journey of this existence has reached a plateau and the years that follow are less numerous than those that have passed.
The questions begin as to what place in this world you hold. How will you be remembered? How long will you be remembered?
Usually a couple of generations is the extent of the answer. The third generation and on may know your name and a few stories of your life, but it is only documented as far as the memory and life of the one who held on to the story.
There are a few stories of truly remarkable feats that carried on through time. Even in our country’s own folklore there are stories about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, Teddy Roosevelt and George Washington that are remembered as much for the story as told by mouth as it is by written word. Seldom though, are those same type stories remembered for individual family members.
While I can recite several stories regarding my grandfathers, I know very little about the generation before them. I can look in a history book and see what the times were like during that period, but the stories that made them human are vacant.
When pondering these thoughts, it dawned on me that I can assume certain characteristics though. My grandfather loved hunting and fishing. He knew how to work with his hands and tend the land. He was a doer. My father followed those same principles. He still does. He doesn’t get out as often in the field or water, but when he does he is at home then as he was when he was in his twenties.
Their love of the outdoors carried on through generations, and they likely learned what they knew from the generations before them.
My kids know stories of my grandfather, because I have repeatedly told them. They know how great of a shot my father is because again, I have repeatedly shared personal experiences when we were in the field together. But in all likelihood, my grandkids and their children will not know the stories of my grandfather and a charging rhinoceros in Africa or a grizzly attacking on a cliff 500 feet high on a mountainside in Alaska. They will not know of a 12-foot hammerhead shark being pulled in on the surf in Ocracoke that spanned many hours.
But my children will be able to share their personal experiences of their times in the field and on the water with their kids and grandchildren. They will be able to experience those things together and in essence carry on a bit of who I am, of who my father is, and who my grandfather was. They may never realize where all of this started, just as I do not. But the key is it did start. That appreciation for the things that many take for granted carries on.
One may never appreciate the beauty of a pumpkinseed sunfish until it is held in hand; the delicate colors mingling in stark contrast to one another tantalizing a vision that is not seen while sitting on the couch. One may not stand awestruck by the iridescent feathers of a woodduck without letting the light of the newly risen sun reflect off the wet body.
That is unless one generation left something for the next to encounter and remember.

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