As luck would have it, one of the summer school field trips I went on this summer included an archery lesson for my students. Just so you know, I do not believe in luck. After my Arrows in the Hands of a Warrior blog, I found the lesson fascinating because my eyes were still open to the symbolic nature of releasing my children as arrows. I found that when thinking of Hannah as an arrow, my investment in the ‘how’ of shooting one was greatly increased.
I first learned to shoot with a bow at summer camp as a child. I wasn’t very good, but I loved the challenge so I asked for bow and arrows for Christmas. (You remember I was a tomboy right?) Anyway, when I had my own archery equipment I thought I would become better at hitting the target, however, I was not the patient type so once I could hit it fairly regularly I lost interest in hitting the bull’s eye. It was too hard, and required too much concentration to find center. That and my arm has a strange hump at the elbow which regularly took a hit from the bowstring causing my aim to be off. I found I was much more accurate with a rifle and I didn’t have to retrieve arrows. Yet that did not stop me from taking archery at camp, alongside riflery, summer after summer.
While my riflery skills increased, my archery skills did not. So at the field trip last week, some forty years later, I finally saw why. Too many variables. If you don’t hold the bow just right, or if you pull to far back on the string, or if you don’t pull far enough, or if you still have a strange hump at your elbow, or if the wind is blowing or not…if any of those things or all of them are not just right, you miss your shot. And this is at a stationary target!
The fletching, that’s the feathers, have to be lined up just so. There are three of them, two of one color and the third is a different color. If you don’t put the odd color away from the bow the arrow will curve severely to one side when released, and the fletching will come off, ruining the arrow. I found myself back at summer camp, while watching my students and their attempts to shoot. Frustration was present in abundance. I could feel their desire to succeed, but their skill level wasn’t there yet.
Of course there were a handful of kids who knew how to shoot. They could hit the foam animal targets in the kill zone, or pretty close to it. When I asked how they did so good, they told me they practice at home or they hunt. Ah…practice breeds confidence. Confidence feeds skill. No hesitation when you have the skill. I found that skillfully launching an arrow is an art.
It was clear to me how all of this new information relates to launching my daughter. There are variables that will guide her along her journey. I am one of them. Each one has to be in place for her to fly sure. I do not want to be a deterrent that causes her to veer off course. I have had some practice with this before, and I hope it is enough that my skill has improved. I want to release the bowstring without hesitation. I want the fletching to be lined up perfectly. There are certainly variables that I cannot control, but I want to do the ones I can well.
The rest I leave in the hands of the real archer. I trust him to shoot the arrow true, and to guide it all the way to its target. He is the maker of the wind, and his arms do not have humps in them. They are strong and straight. His stance is unwavering. His eye is steady, as he pulls back the bow. He breathes on the arrow steadily as he holds it close to his cheek. He waits at the ready for the perfect time to release. All the while his eye never falters from the target even as he releases and whispers “Go!”