When It’s Been a Long Time, and No Time, at the Same Time

Camping in -4 F cold constitutes a feat. It means juggling multiple space heaters on the RV’s electrical outlets in a coordinated attempt not to blow breakers. It means water hardening up in waterlines that somehow escape the heaters’ efforts, hardening up into ice cubes that block all water flow. It means running to the campground’s bathhouse for facilities, since even the heated hose to the city water spigot won’t keep a water feed from freezing. (The bathhouse is clean, neat, and warm, so that’s something!)

And it means Boat Dog does not want to do his business at all.

It’s just too cold.

But in Yankton, South Dakota, this winter, it also means an opportunity to stay right next to an archery venue, re-animate an old archery friendship, get coaching, and try my luck against some of the country’s top shooters.

It means standing on a shooting line and looking down a pipeline of twenty-plus years since I’ve done this ... this shooting ... this archery competing ... this keeping my head and emotions and mind and thoughts so very, very steady. They have to be steady.

And they were steady today. Despite years of bad decisions (and good ones) swimming up into view. Despite awkward, warm, hopeful laughs with that old friend I mentioned—laughs of catching up and long-ago false starts and maybe-regrets and the happy ending I’ve found in my life now.

I was nervous walking into the sprawling archery venue this afternoon, nervous about how I’d shoot and about how I’d feel truly returning to something I left so very long ago. But I shot well, and I realized that “long ago” and “closure” and time unfurling in ribbons and streamers and torn-up shreds is okay—is just part of being human.

I’m not nervous about tomorrow. I’m not nervous about competing. I’m not concerned about the cold.

And I’m not looking back and wondering what parts of the film I’d leave on the cutting-room floor of my life. His arm around me today, the Bosun gave that simple answer we all know: If you take out one piece, you alter the whole thing ... you alter the ultimate ending. So you have to leave it all in, whole cloth, if you want to keep the ending you have. And I love the ending I have now—though it’s not an ending, of course. So whole cloth it is. Embraced. And steadily I shall shoot tomorrow.

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