Friday, November 4, 2011


The Autumn Leaves Outside My Window, Jamestown, NC

The more I think about it, the more I think we don’t give enough thought to the gift of free will we all possess. Of course, free will flourishes best in an environment of freedom which we Americans take all too lightly. I suppose it’s like many things in life—we don’t always appreciate something until we lose it. It’s an old comparison, but free will is indeed analogous to approaching a fork in our path and then making a decision to go one way or the other. We encounter these forks hundreds of times in the course of our daily life. Sometimes that involves choosing good versus not so good and sometimes it literally involves choosing left versus right. We learned about the unwritten “law of lines” while at Disney World years ago. Since most people are right handed they tend to go right when the doors open at the attractions, so it’s always a good idea to move to the left to get a good seat. And as with most all decisions, there are consequences to how we choose. Sometimes those are trivial and sometimes they are very consequential. Sometimes those consequences are immediate and other times they may take years to unfold.

It’s a good day to write and I’m working at my computer next to the upstairs window of my office. Today is overcast with an early November cold rain falling outside but the view is spectacular! They say the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago and the next best time is today, i.e., it’s never too late to make something happen—just do it! I planted the October Glory maple tree outside my window about twelve years ago with the thought in mind that some day it would really be quite a scene. Well, it certainly is today!

I also recall making a simple left versus right decision that seemed trivial at the time but had immediate consequences and proved to be life saving. Me and my two hunting companions primarily used two basic techniques to hunt migratory ducks and geese along the central flyway in Kansas. We would either set out a decoy spread in a new wheat field or cut grain field and call the game birds to us or we would go to them by jumping ponds in pastures. On one particular overcast and drizzly November day like today we had spotted a flight of mallards circling a large pond and then going down. So we drove our truck to an area opposite the back of the dam and proceeded to stealth under their radar to position ourselves in shooting range. One of my hunting companions moved to the left of the dam so that he could peer over the top and locate the floating ducks. I was following my other friend through the tall prairie grasses to the center of the dam.

When our spotter motioned that the ducks were in range directly in front of us, I moved into shooting position to the right of my left handed partner. The signal was given to move up, the ducks responded by giving flight and the rapid sound of automatic shotguns shattered the morning silence. In moments, my magazine was empty and I turned to my hunting partner amid the pungent smell of spent gun powder and incredulously asked why he wasn’t shooting. He just looked at me with an astonished expression and showed me his shotgun. He had been using shells that he had loaded himself and later admitted that he had added a little bit of extra powder for some extra punch. The left side of his receiver had been completely blown out! If I had been standing to his left when the shooting started, my head would have quite possibly been next to the blow out. Was it pure chance that I turned to the right rather than to the left? I may never know, but the autumn leaves outside my window on this chilly morning take on a whole new perspective as I reflect.

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