Hunter’s Gaze (follow up to Salt Water Fishing)

When I was a kid, I used to go hunting with my dad. He grew up in the 20s and 30s in Texas where hunting was part of daily living. His family’s meals were supplemented by hunting. He would sit with me in the forest watching for game. Periodically, he would nod or point at something I couldn’t see. I would shake my head no, then he would point again, sometime to a nearby place. After hunting, he would say, “You’re looking at the trees, you must look between the trees.”

That didn’t help. He remained the expert and I, the novice. One day he added a little extra instruction, “Use a soft gaze. Don’t look at any one thing. See everything without looking at one thing. Look between the trees.”

I wondered how to do that, but began trying. After a time, I could see everything between the trees while focusing on nothing. Then a bird flitted to one side. Another bird to the other. I could see them both, where before, I could see nothing. Later, a deer appeared moving in my soft gaze. I could easily see it moving with my soft focus. Only a few minutes before it would have been invisible to me.

The story about Salt Water Fishing and this story illustrate for me that the writer must have a different way of seeing. In both my stories, there was the ‘normal’ way of seeing and a skilled way. The skilled way allowed me, or anyone else, to see the world in an entirely new way.

That, I think, is what writing is about: seeing the world in a new or different way.

Once I was traveling with a friend, Jack, and we shared some experiences. When we returned to our school (a catholic university), we sat with a nun and I began to talk about our experiences together. The nun turned to Jack and said, “Is that what really happened?”

Jack thought for a moment, then said, “Everything Roger said is absolutely true. I just never would have thought to tell it that way.”