The Holy Ghost and Snipe Hunting.

Posted: September 19, 2018 in Postcards from Cancerland., Uncategorized

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There is a time honored rite of passage called the Snipe hunt.
When I was about 12 years old, I got welcomed into the club.
I was on a camp out with the youth group from St. Henry’s Catholic Church. (I think St. Henry might be the patron saint of men who smoke pipes.)
We had backpacked into the woods, ate a large amount of canned beanie weenies and sat around the campfire, farting and giggling.
It was a memorable trip into the deep woods of north east Oklahoma. I don’t mind saying that we survived some pretty harsh conditions, we hiked for minutes, our tents flooded one night AND we ran out of Vienna sausages.
Then late one night, as we sat around the warm, safe fire, we were told by the older dudes that the conditions were perfect for a snipe hunt. Evidently, The perfect conditions were a moonless night and a bunch of gullible 7th grade boys. We were instructed that we were going to catch, and probably kill, and possibly eat the exclusive wild snipe.
We were ready!
We were MEN and we were ready for the hunt. Snipes were described to us as cross between a wild mongoose, a Pygmy goat and an electric eel. Needless to say we were horrified but we were men so we hunt…right?
We were given  a musty burlap bag and 2 sticks and carefully worded instructions: The older guys would take us into the snipe hunting grounds and help us find the perfect spot. We were to stand there, expectantly, with our bag ready to snag a snipe. We also were told to bang the sticks together and make the snipe  mating call, which sounded like this: “kissy kissy woooo!” The snipes would then run into our burlap bags. It sounded pretty easy…a little scary, but simple…right?
So we did it.
The older guys separated us and led us away from the fire.
They took us out and left us alone in the dark with a burlap bag making kissy noises.
We waited and waited and waited.
It was dark and scary.
It’s really not fair, being 12 years old is already a really hard and confusing time. It’s even harder when you get left in the dark. There were weird completely unfamiliar outdoor noises.
Here’s the part of the plan that we didn’t know:
When we were really creeped out and about to lose our minds the older jerks…I mean guys snuck up on us and scared the crap right out of us. It was all a lot of fun…if you were an older guy.
I was crouched in the dark with my burlap bag making kissy noises. I wasn’t a big fan of the dark at home, but in the woods I was consumed with wide eyed, crazy fear. Right about then, my friend, Arthur’s brother, Phil, snuck up and GRABBED MY LEG!!!
My finely tuned survival skills kicked in and I did what came primal.
I had two sticks so I used them. I started beating the crud out of Phil with my sticks.
He was yelling “LUKE…LUKE…IT’s ME!!!”
I shouted back: “I KNOW!!”
I still feel kinda bad about that, Phil was a really good guy.
Here’s what I realize now, I should have stayed close to the fire.
I should never have let anyone lead me into the dark.
At the first mention of hunting mutant beasts called snipes, I should have just said “you know what, I’m good. I’m gonna stay here by the fire and make some s’mores”.
When you get left in the dark, there are weird completely unfamiliar outdoor noises…
scary noises that give you goosebumps…
noises that whisper doubt…
noises that tell you that you aren’t enough, that your situation is helpless, that there is no hope.
We wander into the woods, away from the fire, not realizing that fear lives in the shadowlands.
Fear grows strongest in the places further from the fire.
I have found that the safest place for me to be right now is holding hands with the fire.
I need to live as close as possible to the fire.
Which is easier than it sounds, because, in a crazy twist of flame, the fire burns INSIDE me!
That’s as close as you can get!
That should also make it tough for me to ignore the light.
But, sometimes I do.
I wander off into the darkness and I listen to the noises of fear and doubt.
I’ve got to find my way back to the fire.
It’s not hard.
He is always there.
He is close, ready to consume me in His holy heat.
The fire gently whispers to me, “you are bigger than you think you are, you have experienced the indwelling of the infinite. You are a habitat for the Holy.” He assures me that I’m never alone. He tells me the truth and tells me which way to go.
He sings campfire songs of healing and wholeness.
I sit in the fire and I’m warmed.
I just wish I had some s’mores.

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