The only thing between you and your heaping plate is a standing Thanksgiving tradition—everyone must go around the table and mention something they are grateful for. Your palms sweat a bit as your turn nears. Most of the guests wouldn’t even begin to understand your list, and the potatoes will be cold by the time you are halfway through. The truth is that you’ve been blessed beyond belief, but this isn’t the first time you’ve paused to offer thanks.
You were grateful as you headed down the trail this fall, leaving a warm bed and sleeping loved ones behind. You knew that they would be there waiting after sunset, anxious to hear stories of a day afield. You anticipated the chill on your face and the fresh air in your lungs. Leaves crunching underfoot finally made your repeated daydreams a reality.
You appreciated the burn in your legs and the wobble in your knees as you climbed into your treestand—sure signs that the moment is finally here. The tingling in your toes and chill of cold steel on your hands were indicators that you’re very much alive and well. Watching the woods wake up to another sunrise didn’t deserve anything less than a silent “Thank you”.
You valued each boisterous blue jay and leaf-crunching gray squirrel—reminders that any day in the field beats one at the work. Pauses in the action left space for reflection on the year before, and predictions for the one ahead. With hope in your heart you remembered that this is what it’s all about—this season was already a success.
Your mind drifted back to the heat of summer, the sound of crickets calling outside your tent. You rubbed your thumb and fore-finger together in rhythm, roughed-up from lipping countless bass. You cherished every battle, and recalled the flicker of their tails disappearing back into the depths.
You were thankful for the pop-up thunderstorm, as a growling stomach would not be enough to pull you from the water. You were appreciative of your buddy’s tarp and the laughter beneath—the aroma of sizzling onions and wisps of cigar smoke escaping into the rain.
You were grateful for dry tinder and firelight as the clouds began to clear. The crackle of a campfire and an open starry-sky were the perfect compliments to stories that never seem to get old.
You embraced the sound of his trot— each step immediately pulling you from your summertime memory. Later you would cherish the moment, sunlight reflecting on his tines, but the tremble in your hands left little space for thought. The heaving of his chest and warm breath from his nostrils would be forever burned in your mind—the immense stillness before the commotion of the shot.
Your heart beat a little harder at the sight of the first crimson blood drops on the leaves. You breathed a sigh of relief as you finally glimpsed him lying in the underbrush. As you wrapped your hand around antler and felt his warm hide your remark was not so silent this time. “Thank You.”