Yoga for Duckhunters

from the studio to the tidal flats

Month: July 2014


When a puppy is three to four weeks old their dormant senses wake up, and they become aware of their surroundings. The puppy realizes it is alive. These are the tender weeks that would never be known to me if my dogs continued to come as rescue dogs or were purchased from a reputable breeder. The first week was the toughest of my life. Not all of the pups born lived. There is a pair of boxes buried on a hill with names and a short span of days.

“We’re not breeders,” I told my hunting partner.

We were lovers of dogs. More specifically, hunting dogs. They came to us with breeding or without much of it, but each of them strived toward the kind of manners a dog needs afield. It was as if the dog, in a striving to abide by human conventions, was striving to overcome its breeding. Yet, in possessing the manners of a gentleman, a dog is ahead of most precisely by what he is not. By virtue of human surroundings, he constantly aims to rise the way we might in a higher culture. They are incapable of the deadly sins, do not strive for false effects, create scandals, or tell sad stories. Sometimes, in the cock of their head, they want to understand the universe.

“The longing for light is the longing for consciousness” C.G. Jung

“The longing for light is the longing for consciousness” C.G. Jung


If I was not a breeder, why did I want my dog to have puppies? Did my reasons fall into one of the polarized categories (reputable breeder or backyard breeder)? Did anyone else have my reasons? Where had this person or persons written about these reasons? Did they first have to announce to the judgment of the categorical tribes that yes, their dog passed conformation, temperament, health and genetic tests? And if I truly valued the reputation of the breed, only then, and perhaps out of a sense of service, would I seek to improve it?

There were more interesting questions, and they came in the form of symptoms, denials, and confessions that always end with “am I the worst?” The first of which was: did I want my dog to have puppies to experience the closest thing I would know to having children (which I would never have)? Was this a reason as badly expressed as “for the sake of it” or “because I could”? Was I as reckless as any mother who wanted a child no matter her circumstances? Or, any man who wanted a woman without a thought of children? These miserable comparisons would not suffice.

The puppies all sat like dogs and peered up at me with their veiled eyes. Their world had not happened yet. They were a delight. They would yield to the tyranny of manners and they would act according to their breeding, which, despite my own contribution, was on footing as sure and sanctioned as any other great line. They would look heavenward for birds in the air, for things I can’t see or smell. And, there would be no apology for why we ended exactly in the place we found ourselves. Somewhere I’d read that dogs are striving to be human the way humans are striving to be gods. Where we fall short of our striving, we wonder. And in wondering we strive again to be something that is merely what we are. Alive.

What I wanted most was a chance to be a part of the life of my hunting dog at its earliest beginnings when its character develops. We were going to keep two pups from the litter. That was decided before they were born. Which to keep was the trouble. There was three spot, the sole female, a tri-color with spirit enough to pounce her littermates; two spot, a black and white who looked a miniature version of his father with one spot extra; orange spot, the biggest and calmest; side spot, a pup who looked upward more than any other; and no spot, a shy and sleepy pup that wanted most to be held.

The five dwarves slept in a pile and they were named, as we promised not, when we agreed to the spot-method: Purdey, Colt, Boss, Cogswell, and Hugo. We would keep them all.

the edge

cc-remote-writingAdventurers inspire me. They are the fearless few of us who do not shrink at change, at risk, at loss or gain, at limitations, at third party perspective, at any of the things that truly do not matter. Instead of emotionalizing a static world, they vitalize the real world with their daring. They are never victims. While the world vaults them as heroes just as it attempts to wrap its arms around them never wanting to let them go and crying over goodbyes, the adventurer always must go, always grow, and lean into the light.

The spirit of adventure is one of the most attractive, healthy, thriving spirits out there. It is often unapologetic, not because it doesn’t care, but because it lives so close to the survival instinct. It cannot explain, promise, or otherwise foster co-dependency. Hesitation means death, stopping to explain or wrongly consider is a waste of its time. The adventurer is meant for heavenward flights and plummets by the grace of gods within us all. Let them go.

I remember a friend who always stopped when entering a store. Right inside the doorway, he would stop. Much like a deer transfixed in a road way by lights, new information came to my friend at overwhelming and dangerous speed. I ran into his back at least twenty times. “What are you doing?” I would say. We were on the anti-adventure of shopping and still it dealt too much adventure for this friend. I got to where I would map out the store in advance of the visit: “When we go in, head to the right…”

Although my adventures do not amount to heroism, world records, or even great feats, the spirit of adventure courses through me to a degree that I make decisions as fast and wrong or right as possible just to keep on top of what feels like a wave. When I walk into a building, I never stop. I’ve been known to push through a crowd. I’ve been known to walk out of meetings and classrooms. I’ve been known to chunk away relationships, jobs, and ways of life just to feel the raw edge of new beginnings again.

Most of all, I love other adventurers. I love, especially women, who never say “I can’t.” They become young mothers and find a way to make it work. They have a dream and they do everything to make it real. When obstacles are presented, they find paths to a solution. Or better, their way of thinking is constantly addressing obstacles before they arise and developing contingencies and alternate routes before they ever need them. They inspire others with their conviction, and they have conviction in spirit if not by way of explanation.

In my mind, these rare few are always living on the edge. They are recognizable instantly by a certain clarity in their eyes, a weathered complexion, a distracted purpose if any where other than the mountains, air, or sea. This edge that they live on and I hope to always live on is also a gap. It is the space beyond. It is the sun that a blade of grass reaches toward. It is the next bend or hill a hunter must travel. Or else it is the endless night and ache and torture of a life spent in the office.

When I had the recent opportunity to write a regular column for Women’s Outdoor News (the WON), there were several ideas for what we could call it. We thought about what I would write and the appeal of Alaska to readers. I thought of Alaska titles with a bit of dislike. What I wanted to write about was living on the edge. I wanted to write about why adventure matters. Why it matters in small ways and big ways. How it matters. Where it matters.

My new column “The Edge,” sponsored by EvoOutdoors, explores the expanding perspectives on hunting and the outdoors offered by a growing community of women hunters. I hope you read it between adventures.