D  e  s  e  r  t     E  x  p  o  s  u  r  e    January 2006

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Going to Sanctuary

An outdoors irony — being off by yourself gives you a chance to think about those you wish you could spend more time with.

 

It's been some time since I have gone to Sanctuary — at least three years by my reckoning. I've been too busy, it's been too cold, it's been too hot, it's too rainy or outside occurrences interfered. But as I write this, I am in Sanctuary.

You longtime readers of my columns know what Sanctuary is, but you newbies haven't a clue, so please allow me to explain. When I venture to Sanctuary I go by myself, off to someplace remote and isolated for one or two nights and maybe three days. I go there to meditate, read, converse with God by both talking and listening for answers or direction, hunt, shoot and hike, but I don't necessarily do all of the above at the same Sanctuary.

I spend a heck of a lot of time sitting around a campfire without the benefit of artificial light. I sleep a whole bunch, too.

In the end I usually come away refreshed and rested and somewhat enlightened and usually more aware of who I am or where I'm going in life. I find especially that I'm more aware of who the Forever God is!

Never can I travel to Sanctuary and have another person along, although a dog companion is OK. You see, just one word from them or even their actions around me would negate the purpose of Sanctuary.

More times than not, a theme emerges from my time there. Sometimes I come away with a direction; sometimes I just needed a rest; sometimes I learn a new thought. It all culminates in an inner peace.

My first trip to Sanctuary was many years ago. I merely shot up a lot of ammo and came away relaxed and stress-free.

One time I came away caught up on reading a bunch of books and magazines that had backlogged on my desk. I also meditated quite a bit that time and I now try to do that at every Sanctuary. In fact, meditation and cogitating are the most frequent exercise at such a function.

So here I sit atop a mountain ridge at 7,600 feet in elevation on the Gila; the Aldo Leopold Wilderness lies in front of me to the east as a warm November sun beats down upon me. The sky is a clear light blue; no clouds violate its expanse today in any direction. An intermittent slight breeze coming from the northwest sways the pine tops above me, making for a very lazy day.

I'm in the third day of Sanctuary and I'm supposed to be hunting deer, but today is Sunday, and I choose not to hunt on this day. No, I didn't shoot a deer yet, and yes, I believe that it is perfectly all right for someone to hunt on Sunday.

I choose not to hunt so that I might show the Forever God that I'm appreciative of all of the times He has given me success on other days past; it is my way to say thanks for all of the blessings that He has bestowed on me.

Oh, it's not easy, mind you. I lay in bed this morning and three loud shots awoke me out of dreamland. As I lay there I envied the opportunity that the unseen hunter had just had. I wanted to get up and hunt too, but I willed myself not to. I'd continue to celebrate my thanks for what Providence has done for me and what He might do in the future.

The theme for this Sanctuary came to me early on the first night as I sat before a small campfire in the dark. I realized that I was lonely. That's different from being alone, mind you.

Out of the thoughts of being lonely came the realization that I missed the comradeship of certain persons, and I began wishing.

My first wish was that my dad could be here to experience this camp and its attendant life. He's 81 now and pretty much homebound in southern California. I pondered that he and I had hunted together, but we never camped out much except for a week or two back in 1971.

I missed my wife sitting here by the fire, too. Being able to talk and laugh together and share each other without the distractions that happen back in "the world." We used to camp a lot when the kids were preteens, but in the last 20 years we've gone maybe twice. I miss her and that precious time together.

I miss my son and wish that he were here, too. I wish that we could talk, a thing that we haven't been able to do since he was 15. It's mostly my fault: I seem to just clam up when we are together. Now he's grown and gone and trying to grasp onto togetherness like this would be as fruitless as grasping hold of the smoke from the fire.

I miss ol' Higgman; he and I were as close as two men could be without being blood related. But he's moved on, too. He was a great campfire partner.

Then there's the Goz. We do a lot together, but we haven't sat over a fire in nigh onto three years now. Oh, every time we see each other we say we gotta do it soon, but "soon" never comes anymore.

I invited him and the Yostman up, at least for part of the day, but they both had somewhere else to be. (Goz did show up at high noon and I almost cried when I saw the old guy!)

Anyway, my theme is to spend the remaining time here cogitating on all of those past campfires and all of those past relationships and cherish each and every memory.

Of course, if any of them had stayed these six days with me, I wouldn't have been to Sanctuary; it is all so bittersweet.

As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may the Forever God bless you out there, too.

 

Larry Lightner writes Ramblin' Outdoors monthly for Desert Exposure.

 

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