As a young boy I inherited a bow. I remember it quite well. It was a red recurve with a white rubber riser. The brand name was Shakespeare and the draw weight was 18 pounds. I was 7 years old.
Along with the bow were a few wooden arrows and a quiver. For a target I had a cardboard box stuffed full of crumpled newspapers. With this equipment and no instruction whatsoever I honed what writer Thomas McGuane would call a “high specific skill” that would stay with me for life. (Note: This is something quite different from a “highly specific skill.”)
I recall shooting archery in high-school PE class at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Northern Virginia. Then in my 30s I briefly dabbled in the sport again with a compound bow that seemed brutish and lacked the elegance of the traditional recurve that I’d first learned to shoot.
And to which I’d return.
In recent months I’ve rediscovered the joy of archery with a 35-pound recurve. Like my first bow, it’s nothing fancy but much nicer — a smooth-shooting Samick Sage with a beautiful wooden riser. I’m able to regularly hit smaller targets out to 50 feet shooting this outfit and some nice Fleetwood carbon arrows.
What I like about archery is that it requires a Zen-like mental focus. If you can shoot, you’ll do well so long as your mind is clear. Let your mind wander somewhere else and the arrows will stray with it. Recently I sent a wild shot right over the target and the arrow stuck tight in the thick bark of a Ponderosa pine.
Archery offers a break and diversion from other more-physical aerobic activities I enjoy, like running, hiking, mountain-biking and cross-country skiing, though it does require a certain amount of physical strength. It offers a break from the stresses of daily life as well, though it can be addictive and fire up the old obsessive-compulsive machine if you are not careful.
I try to shoot a few arrows every day when the weather’s nice. And if I miss a couple days, or a few weeks, it’s no big deal. I can always come back to it like I’ve done all my life.