Monday, June 28, 2010

Medieval Fun & Games

This weekend was our annual Traditional Archers Society campout. Hundreds of archery enthusiasts turn out for four days of shooting fun in Colorado’s alpine wilderness. Though I’m a city girl at heart, there is something very empowering about walking though the woods with an ancient weapon of war at the ready – though the only thing in my sites are foam targets. Unlike a gun which seems like a complicated piece of machinery to me, a recurve bow is a simple, elegant tool. Mine is made of wood, my arm guard and glove are handmade of elk hide (not by me) and my arrows are wooden and artfully hand painted with distinctive blue fletching (again, not made by me, but I’ve arranged to learn how soon. Check back on progress). With these simple tools, a bow and arrows, humankind has been storming castles (like this one in Konopiste, Czech Republic) and snagging dinner for thousands of years.

There are no sights on my recurve, so shooting is instinctive which demands one’s full attention. Breathe, visualize, shoot, or something like that. Did I mention I am ADD? Though I like to imagine I have great skill like Katniss Everdeen, fictional heroine and archer extraordinaire of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games and Catching Fire series, most of the 3-D targets and all of the wildlife are safe with me on the prowl (only rusty old cans need worry). When I participate in the battle clout event, I can easily imagine hundreds of medieval archers at the foot of a castle or maybe a walled city lifting their bows skyward upon hearing the command “Archer’s Ready” and on the “Archer’s Fire” command, releasing a terrifying shower of arrows down on their target. For our purposes a pole in the middle of wide green meadow serves as our castle.

The sport combined with the camping for four days is a real back to basics endeavor (there's a reason I'm as headless as Ann Boleyn in this picture). By the end of it my shooting arm is sore, I’m craving a cocktail with ice, I desperately need to bathe, not to mention make an appointment for a pedicure, but it’s a weekend I always look forward to. While my arrows might not always hit the mark and I may never shoot like King Henry VIII or the fabled Robin Hood, I like to think  when it comes to time spent outdoors under a canopy of aspen trees in the company of family and friends my aim is true.

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