One of the benefits of being part of the Army family, even as a civilian, is having access to the many tools the Army provides for soldiers, families, and Army civilians. One such tool is the GAT 2.0, part of the Army Fit program. The Army is big on resilience, and endeavors to empower with guidance and education. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, I took the GAT 2.0 last April. The test measures emotional, social, family, spiritual and physical health through a series of questions. Last year when I took it, my actual age was 51.6 years, but based on my answers my “RealAge” was 49.3; a whole 2.3 years younger than my chronological age. That’s a fine outcome, I think!
To assess how I’m doing one year later, I took the GAT 2.0 again yesterday. All areas showed “improvement”. My actual age is 52.6; but now, my “RealAge” is 48.9 – a whopping 3.7 years younger than my chronological age!
I contemplated what might have made the difference over the past year, and then I realized… hunting! Over the past two years I’ve done a significant amount of fishing; more since relocating to Kansas than the rest of my life combined. But even with my calming experiences with pole in hand, I spend most of my time fishing on post where I am still in contact with other people, inappropriately discarded garbage, vehicles, noise, etc. Hunting, however, takes me into the woods; into solitude.
One of the questions on the GAT 2.0 measured my sense of calm and peace. Becoming intimate with the woods in this part of Kansas has brought me serenity; a chance to commune with nature, to see/hear/smell G-d’s presence in the wild.
Even though I am currently not hunting, as spring turkey season has not yet started here in the Flint Hills, I have become so focused on it that my weekends include trips out to the woods; to set up a blind, replenish the feeder, check on the trail cam. When I stand amongst the trees and tall grass I feel whole. Hunting has given me the opportunity to develop some detection skills as well, and seeing fresh deer tracks, and deer droppings as I did today, energize me with anticipation!
Having spent my life as an avid outdoor enthusiast and animal lover, I have always been excited to see wild animals in their natural habitat. But now I find myself almost just as excited see the tell-tale signs of their presence. My respect for deer has increased since I began hunting, and I seek to understand them in a new way. There is a rhythm to nature that most people don’t experience. For me, it is a cadence that I long to be in-step with; and when I can participate and observe it, even if only briefly, it heals my mind-spirit.
Simply looking at the woods as I drive past, whether on post or on the interstate, brings me a feeling of peace… because I know the woods now. This shift in perspective has made all the difference in how I feel about Kansas, and how I feel about being here. It is this sense of intimacy with nature here that has empowered my ability to let go of those things I cannot control, has aided in my development of patience, and has provided me a closer connection to G-d.