By Brenda Black
An eery, orange blob peered through gangly and gnarled trees, penetrating increasing darkness. Like one enormous eye, it glared down on my hiding place behind a rambling sticker bush. I hunkered lower and tried my best to blend into the mottled forest floor. Day's end crept nearer and the eye shrank and cowered with each passing minute. I turned my back to its foreboding presence and concentrated on the gusts of rushing winds that roared through timber tops. Just as quickly as they came, they abruptly stopped or slowly exhaled ghostly breaths through quivering amber leaves and upraised, pale branches. Though the wood seemed haunting, it failed to frighten me. For nothing could be more scary than the scene I beheld just moments earlier.
I stood staring up the length of a 40-foot, scaly creature and watched helplessly as my son ascended and conquered it. I'd sent him and his brother to the woods before at this time of year and worked at not worrying. But this time, I witnessed why mothers pray so much during deer season – the hanging of the tree stand.
In former seasons, I spent my energy fretting over boys already perched on a two-by-three-foot square, suspended 15 feet off the ground, and didn't give much thought to the preliminaries. As a result, I hammered in rules for safety harnesses and keen observation for opening morning. This was my first experience to see the real danger of installing said equipment.
The first three or four steps didn't bother me; I knew he could drop and roll if necessary with nary a scratch. But, as I stood on tip toes and precariously suspended sharply pointed metal bars up to my son-turned-monkey, my nerves were tested. He grappled and clung to loosening bark and I ducked from falling twigs and acorns. Methodically, Cooper drilled and tightened each step precisely placed for ascension.
If that wasn't horrifying enough, he then strapped himself to the tree that I had since noticed was missing a big chunk of itself on the backside, hollowed from lightning, disease or insect infestation. My doubts fell on his deaf ears, now a convenient five yards above my craning neck and counsel. So I squelched my reservations and continued as ground support by half hitching a rope around the metal contraption that he slowly hoisted to his tree-hugging side.
He wiggled and clamped and chained his pending perch and tested it for stability while I rubbed my aching neck and prayed with head bowed low or chin raised heavenward, depending on how bad the neck kink was at the moment. Then the worst came when he loosened the belt from the tree and wriggled his bottom to the seat. I efficiently moved all equipment encircling the base of the tree and, while holding my breath, began strategizing how I could catch that big boy if he took a wrong step. At one moment it even occurred to me that his safe landing would probably break my back, yet I would still do it.
I was scared stiff … and also very proud. He was cautious and methodical and performed his feat with expertise. Come to think of it, he probably knew better than me from his vantage point just how great the risk. And while I spent my time on solid ground in a mental frenzy, he stayed calm and clear-headed way up in a tree. You tell me, which one of us was more stable.
When the “hearts of his people [shake] as the trees of the forest shake with the wind,” the Lord says “...Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted...” (Isaiah 7:2, 4)