The grass is always greener in Montana.
We all get jealous, and I’m certainly no exception. The Internet is filled with photos and videos of guys, who always look just a little more manly than I do, on grand, exotic big game hunting trips, most often in western mountain states or Alaska.
No matter how hard I try, a little bit of envy always seeps in when I see these trips.
I’ve never hunted in Montana, or Idaho, or Utah, and chances are I never will.
It’s really easy to overlook the enjoyment of hunting squirrels in the woods behind my house when I’m watching some dude stalk giant bull elk in Colorado. But that’s not a healthy outlook, and we should never take the opportunities at our fingertips for granted.
I will say, in the vast sea of Instagram posts and YouTube videos, Netflix’s MeatEater balances the exotic and the approachable better than anyone. They’ll switch seamlessly between an Alaska Caribou hunt that’d probably cost me $8,000 and hunting squirrels with a $200 .22 in Kentucky. The real genius of the whole thing lies in the show’s ability to make both of those hunts equally wondrous and important. The show’s host, Steven Rinella, writes the squirrel episode with just as much vigor and respect for the natural world as he does the caribou episode. It’s “Parts Unknown” with more guns and fewer uppity chefs. Even if you’re a non-hunter, it’s worth the watch.
My point in saying that is a show like MeatEater reminds me that the natural world is filled with just as much wonder in my back yard as it is in British Columbia, sans the mountains, moose and grizzly bears. So maybe it doesn’t look as pristine, but the feeling of entering the landscape is the same whether you’re 500 yards from your house or 500 miles from any house. The properties of spiritual rehabilitation are universal.
To walk through a stand of timber trying to be as quiet as you possibly can is as potent a restorative medicine as I’ve ever found. You’re not being quiet for fear of spooking whatever animal you’re hunting, but for the sole purpose of not intruding on the world around you, while simultaneously observing as much of it as possible.
Lately I’ve been doing yoga three or four nights a week. I feel like a sissy even saying that, but I’ve found some of the relaxation techniques to be incredibly helpful, and the similarities between yoga and my time in the woods is striking. There’s a kind of pulsating calmness that comes over me in certain poses that I’ve only ever felt outdoors in the past. The instructors (via YouTube) are always telling me to focus on my breathing. Being a cynic by nature, I rolled my eyes the first few times I heard them say that.
“Bunch of hippy BS,” I figured.
But after a few sessions I broke down that wall and started to really buy in to the practice. Now when I close my eyes and focus on the sound of my breath, I hear a strong south wind blowing through the tops of the cedars at the Snake River in Western Nebraska, where I grew up fishing for trout.
And I’ll bet those trees sound exactly the same in Montana or Alaska, or Siberia for that matter.
C.L. Sill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org