I can’t imagine being an insomniac; sleep has never been a problem for me. Almost every night like clockwork Bob wakes up around 2:30 or 3 and turns on the bedside lamp and starts reading a book and will read for at least a couple of hours. Most nights, I’ll wake up, glance at him and roll over and go back to sleep, but last night I woke up and stared at him in the glow of the light. I squinted to see what he was reading because it’s usually something different each night. He was reading a book of poems by Wallace Stevens. He turned off the light and said, “I remember the poem.” I said “What are you talking about?” He then started reciting the poem out loud and it ended with the words:
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
I whispered to him so that I wouldn’t wake up Peat who was nestled in between us still sleeping. “That’s a really lovely poem, thanks for sharing.” I tell him goodnight for the second time and I toss and turn and try to get back to sleep and start thinking of frost, the boughs of pine-trees crusted with snow and junipers shagged with ice and spruces rough in the distant glitter. I start thinking about how much I miss being on the mountain, so I start retracing my footsteps, my path up and down, one slow step at a time, the upland version of counting sheep I suppose, and think about a season that went by so fast that it almost seems like it never happened. I turn over one last time and reach over to stroke Peat on his back. I can hear him sigh, and then I fall asleep and start dreaming.
I dream of zigzagging through miles of golden bunchgrass, lichen covered rocks, and dense Antelope bitterbrush and sagebrush forests so thick where sometimes I’d lose track of Bob and Peat. I dream of traversing huge wide open landscapes and the unknowable vastness of it all, and creeping across steep scree slopes while trying not to slip, and how it always seemed that Peat would point on just the other side of a barbed wire fence that I’d have to cross over or crawl under. I dream of those hot and smoky and super dry early season conditions where I ran out of water a couple of times and that covey of chukar that busted wild over my head and we didn’t even know it until we got home and saw the photo. I dream of borrowing beautiful young Custer and how much fun and exciting it was to hunt with two dogs again and also to hunt with Peat’s dad, Sioux, the Mouritsen family, and other Sunburst Brittanys.
I dream of trudging through knee-deep snow covered with hoarfrost just to get to the top of the ridge and not finding any birds after all the hard and painful work just to get there. I dream of those staunch points and retrieves, and missed shots because my fingers were so bitterly cold to the bone that I couldn’t take the safety off when the birds busted. There is also in my dreams that somber exhilaration when everything finally does come together. I dream of Bob finding a matching set of deer antlers that are such an amazing part of nature, and on another hunt seeing a Peregrine Falcon cruising overhead just before it swooped down and carried off that chukar Peat was pointing. I dream of hunting in late November when the sun sets so early and seeing the pink alpenglow on the distant mountains and how I was so happy and relieved, still over a mile from the pickup, that Bob was the one who’d packed a headlamp in his hunting pack .
I dream about busting through the thick brush in a deep draw and being tripped, tangled and caught by brambles and branches, and on so many hunts in December and January sliding on my butt on the icy, slick, and muddy slopes and watching Bob do the same thing.
I dream about the old rattlesnake skins on the mountain left behind like ghosts. I dream about those yellow shotgun shells Bob so lovingly made for me with just a wee teaspoon of Angus’s ashes carefully put inside each one so I could spread his ashes in all of my favorite hunting spots. And the favorite thing I dream is how, just before going to sleep after a day on the mountain, the sweet but spicy and bitter smell of sagebrush lingers on Peat’s fur and which I inhale when I kiss and bury my face in his head and neck.