June 27, 2012
When the bow breaks
In the last few years -- since about 2004, when my dad died over the course of a sunny weekend in July -- I've felt each loss with more impact than the previous one, sadness building and accumulating. I always thought it would get easier, getting "old." I meditate, I go to church ... but there is a grief load that never seems to evaporate. Sometimes I imagine it is all packed into "inter-model" cartons on BNSF flatbed cars, crawling across the high plains of North Dakota and Montana, going somewhere. And now, in the event horizon of menopause, I know that hormones also play their evil part.
Then last week at practice I drew my beloved Blackhawk Yellowjacket -- like I've been doing for almost a year now -- and heard a terrifying "snap-click." And that was the death of my first real grown-up "serious" bow.
It seemed to frame perfectly the anniversary of my first full year of being back in the Society for Creative Anachronism, about which I've blogged previously. How did I get into this craziness? Archery. Why do I stay in it? Archery -- the only war art this aged girl can ever practice, having managed to be disqualified from the Air Force by gender and eyesight, and from the Army by a generous fear of helicopters (it's a long story having to do with wanting to be a pilot, growing up). After being beaten to shreds at age 18 & 19 by the other fighters in my Barony at MSU and giving up on the happy bonding of war generally, by golly, I found archery. (But I'd known about the bonding aspects of that from GS Camp.)
On this particular Wednesday, the First Day of Summer 2012 (oddly enough, also the anniversary, St. Alban's Day, of my Confirmation) it was sunny and beastly hot. We were having a "supplemental" practice so we could just get some shooting in. I'd been using this bow downstairs in my basement, always feeling a little like cheating, like maybe I was "using it up." I needed a "basement bow" and one was in the works. But we had a chance to sling shafts at a real 20-yd. outdoor at our usual range and we took the opportunity.
It could have been the heat ... the 45 years of the bow's lifetime ... the times I, in my ignorance, left it out in the direct sunlight at practices, or at events when I couldn't find shade for it. Maybe the extra trauma of practicing in my basement; and maybe it sensed that I knew it was almost as old as I was. To be sure, over the course of the winter I'd paged through various catalogs looking for shiny new bows. But I always came back to the one I was given. But it WAS given to me, in very special and unique circumstances.
"When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall; and down will come baby, cradle and all."
The baby falls but the grown up makes the Save by growing up and being there. Saint Paul notes this when he talks about the mature Gospel: it's too much for "babies" so he has to dole out "baby food." Joseph Campbell says, tigers eat tiger-food, not goat-food, and when you're ready to be a tiger, you're going to kill and eat and learn to like it. Dragons live forever, but not so little boys, and that's a good thing even though it hurts to grow up. (Dragons NEVER outgrow the little boy in all of us.)
My dad's last words to me were good advice for situations like this: "Have a beer, and relax." It was a Friday evening and I was fretting about driving a big rental truck the next day, for all day, in support of a 1800-rider organized bike ride. He was going in for a "simple cardiac procedure."
I will let the past be the past, and have a beer, and relax. And then I will buy SUCH a bow ...