January 5, 1998

Dead Ducks

I recognized the sounds but they really did not register. I had just begun a walk down my street when the guns exploded. At least that is what I surmise happened. I suppose that they did not actually explode. In fact, I know that they did not because I saw them intact later on. But the sound was loud - the source of the compression unmistakable. No one had dropped a load of lumber. No one had lit off-season fire crackers. No, these were gunshots - two of them and then no more.

So I guess the sounds did register, because I can still hear them. But at the time they did not seem like any big deal - just faraway sounds that maybe were too loud and too close.

I continued my walk on this spring-like January day - a day which softens us up for the real blows of winter to come. But even with that knowledge, it is still a liberating experience. The future feels more open and opportunity beckons.

At the bridge near the end of my street, the creek was rushing towards the ocean and hunters were on the move - two men toting guns moving purposefully in opposite directions across the marsh. One disappeared into the small creek about two hundred yards away, his head popping up from time to time. His partner was further down the road and he headed to the same spot in the creek with a large branch in tow.

I could not figure out what they were doing, but in a few short minutes it became clear. They strode back across the marsh with their rifles and their prey - two hunters, two gunshots and two dead ducks.

I sit and sob while I write this. This is not an anti-hunting diatribe. I recognize their right to hunt. I eat meat and I have eaten duck. No, the tears are not for the ducks or the hunters. The tears are for me. The tears are for the violence.

Real violence at any level rips me apart. Oh, how I wish that it were not so. But my brain and body are hard-wired for a reaction of unreasonable anxiety and depression.

It is about my childhood. There were no guns in my childhood and I have never held a gun. But there was a different kind of violence - the subtle and permitted violence of angry, anxious, frustrated and depressed adults. I am not going to go into the details. I know the details and that is enough.

What I want to do is to change the wiring. If this is how I react to just being near hunters, can you imagine how I react if I am part of an angry confrontation? I was recently the target of a verbal attack by an angry woman whom I had just met, and that put me in a tailspin for two weeks. I want this to change.

I know that the first step in change is awareness, so perhaps the hunters gave me a gift. The impact of violence on me has never been so clear. I can only hope that the cold clarity will lead to answers that today I do not possess.

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