Hunting for a needle in a haystack


By Betty Slade

Our season is changing once again. Have you noticed how yellow hue is tipping the tree tops? Hunting season is around the corner. My Sweet Al’s gun is ready. But reality is setting in and he’s facing the next season of his life.

“I can’t hunt any more. I need to hang up my gun.”

His statement made me sad. I always prayed he wouldn’t get lost, fall in the forest or get shot, but the hunt was his moment in the sun and I honored his special time each year. He enjoyed getting up at 4 a.m. to beat the sunlight, find the perfect place, sit and wait for a trophy elk to stroll by, and afterward tell his stories.

All year long he cleaned his guns, sharpened his knife and kept his dream alive. He loved to hunt. Hunting wasn’t a hobby, it was life to Al. His life.

What is my Sweet Al going to do now?

The conversation around our house is always the same. “You’re always at the computer.”

“I’m happy doing what I do. Al, you’ve got too much time on your hands. You need a hobby. I’m going to find one for you.” I had no idea where to look. He’s not one to go to the coffee shop, meet the guys and shoot the bull. He’s not one to tie flies, groom an herb garden or hunt the Internet.

With good lighting, Al often sits at a small desk in our bedroom and will ask me for a needle and thread. Always at the most inconvenient time. He needs to patch something or sew on a button.

Of course, I’m at the computer writing the most exciting phrases I’ve ever thought about. I don’t want to be pulled out of my world and my own delicious moments to hunt for a needle and thread. I quit sewing years ago and I have no idea where to find them. But Al needles me until I get up from my comfortable place and will go look for one.

I announced to the family, “I found your dad a hobby. You won’t believe it.” 

“What is it?”

It was right under my nose. A place to keep him busy. I told him to go to the garage and find that old Singer sewing machine. When he found the machine, he blew off the dust, cleaned and oiled it with three-in-one household oil.

You’d think he got a new bicycle. He hasn’t left that old sewing machine alone. I hear the motor humming. He has a place for a pair of scissors and his sewing kit our daughter gave him years ago. He has his own sewing center.

The family might be getting homemade gifts from Al this Christmas. A bib for William and a couple of potholders for me. I hope he’s not thinking of sewing me a camouflage scarf.

Another season of life for my Sweet Al. Everyone tells me a cold winter is coming. Well, I’m fortified. Sewing will keep him busy this winter and I can write my next book. Why didn’t I think about this before? Maybe it was for this moment and will keep his dreams alive for a few more years.

 Joan Chittister writes in her book “The Gift of Years,” “Behind every moment is the Spirit of Life. The God of Life waits.”

We don’t have too many years left. Life at this age can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. But we need to be reminded about the value of the obvious and that life is still waiting for us to live it.

Final brushstroke: From hunting to sewing. Heavens. A new season is waiting for my Sweet Al. I guess the next thing he’ll want me to do is go with him to the fabric store and help him pick out camouflage material to make a service jacket for Whiskey. His faithful hunting dog can sit next to him at his sewing machine and dream of hunting for his next piece of fabric and new creation.

Readers’ comments

“Dearest Betty, I was almost brought to tears by this article about Pagosa, told through the story of Junior Sorenson. I’ve lived in Pagosa eight years (hard to believe) and with all of the history I’ve read about this town/area, I’ve never been in touch with its heart this way. This article did that for me. Thank you for giving me a whole new perspective on my ‘new’ home. And on Holland’s funeral service remark, ‘Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped into the next room … And I’ll wait for you … just around the corner. All is well.’ C.N.J., Pagosa Springs.”

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