Back in elementary school, I was a Girl Scout. I wasn’t the best Girl Scout. I’m not a very competitive person, so I never cared that much about selling the most Girl Scout cookies (like literally, there was one year I didn’t sell any and my troop leaders got mad at me?). I’m not a big “team player”, so group activities, team building and the like, not my thing. Usually when I had to work with other girls on projects, it ended in me doing most of the work. When we would suggest activities for the troop, my ideas were never picked (it’s fine, who wants to spend the night at the damn zoo anyway!?) But I digress.
One thing that was always kind of alright about Girl Scouts was summer camp. Granted, I don’t like singing weird songs all day, janky crafts are whatever, and I’ve always liked starting my own campfires without the assistance of overprotective mothers. But I like hiking, and cooking over fires, and sleeping in cabins/tents, basically I wanted to be a Boy Scout, but was stuck a Girl Scout and I had to make the most of it.
One year at Girl Scout camp, they brought in an archery teacher and all the groups had an hour to learn and practice some archery. That shit was right up my alley! My little 10 year old self was literally exploding with excitement. Annie Oakley was one of my heroes, and I was fairly sure Annie Oakley was pretty handy with a bow and arrow, so that was definitely something I was determined to be successful at. When it was my turn to shoot my three arrows, I was ready. I grabbed my bow, took my stance, and let my first ever arrow fly.
I got a bullseye. On my first go, I got a bullseye. My troop leaders were gobsmacked, our instructor asked if I’d ever done archery before (I assured him I hadn’t), the other girls in my group were instantly upset that most of them couldn’t even hit the target, let alone get a bullseye. I shot my other arrows and didn’t miss the target with those ones either. I got home and begged my mom for an archery set. Well archery sets are expensive, so I didn’t end up getting one, but it was an experience I’ve always remembered, and an archery set is something I’ve still always wanted.
So finally, some 9 years later, I walked out into my living room on Christmas Day this past year, and low and behold there sat a shiny new archery set. My heart soared! I had a beautiful, grey long bow, a set of arrows, and a target of my very own. I couldn’t wait to give it a go. Well, winters in Cincinnati are very cold, and very wet, and my target is one that really can’t get wet or it instantly weighs 500lbs. So for a few months, my archery set sat in the garage gathering dust.
This morning though, it was cloudy and cool, and everything is incredibly green. Its one of those days that feels like you’re in England and not Ohio. Due to this wonderfully British weather, and my love of Narnia and Brave, I got a wild hair up my ass and decided to drag out my target, string my bow, and gather my arrows.
This morning I spent about 45 minutes, in my backyard, shooting arrows at a big, square sack of sand, and it was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I’m nowhere near as good as I was as a child, I miss my target far more often than I hit it, though I did get a few arrows to stick in the tree behind my target. But, all the while I’m genuinely enjoying myself. I celebrate when my arrow hits it’s mark and readjust when it doesn’t. It’s strange when you do something once and fall instantly in love with it, and then have to wait years and years to do it again. My body takes some time to remember the correct form and positioning, but as I shoot arrow after arrow, I feel my posture start to sharpen, my breathing starts to change. I’m starting to remember.
I’ve only just started doing archery again, and I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn before I’m really good at it. But it just feels so right. Like speaking a foreign language, and then going back to your native tongue; it just feels right in your mouth, like this is what you were always meant to be saying, like this was always how it was supposed to sound. My body finally feels like it’s doing something is was always meant to be doing, something I was made for. And man, it’s a magical feeling.
Standing in my backyard, I’m reminded of all the characters I’ve loved over the years that have used a bow and arrow, all their stories. Susan in Narnia and her bow from Father Christmas that wouldn’t miss if she only believed in herself. Legolas, who’s elegance, speed, and precision is astounding. Merida, who bravely fought for her freedom with her bow. Green Arrow and Hawkeye defending their respective comic realms with nothing more than a bow and some fancy arrows. Katniss, feeding her family and fighting for her life, always armed with her trusty bow.
I remember them, and so many others, both fictional and real. What would they tell me, how would they teach me this art form? Each would have their own tips and teaching style. If only I could slip into their stories and learn from them, what a master I would be. As it is, all I have is myself and my imagination, and for now that will have to do.