The great thing for me as a writer when taking up a new past time (or even talking to other people about their hobbies), is learning a new language. Today, I started an introduction to archery and it is an entire world, replete with a vocabulary, some of which is quite ancient. There is the fletch, the nock and the nocking point, the rest, and of course the bow and arrow. Some terms I was familiar with – a fletcher is a maker of arrows – for instance. But putting the language together with unfamiliar actions makes it real in a way no history book, documentary nor televised sporting event can convey. We all know that right.
Archery was nothing like firing the plastic doodads at a kind of squishy dart board thing we had as kids. There was something oddly comforting holding the recurve bow that was just a little taller than myself. Then there was a satisfying kind of brisk thump/thud of the arrows as they (mostly) hit the target, or the twang if they hit the timber edge, and then the rattle of the aluminium arrows in the quiver at my side. There is now the purpling bruise from the pain of my novice abilities, as the draw trembled at the release and the string hit my arm, which if I don’t correct through my stance, I will need a bracer for. See language!
We spent an hour trying to digest not just the language, but also the rules and etiquette. These are, after all, weapons, so there are many do nots and never evers as well as the many how tos. How to stand, how to draw, how to hold the bow, how to position the fingers using a tab, how to hold the hand at the jaw, how to loose the arrow and how to ensure the arrow is positioned. And how to improve. But it is the language which anchors our behaviour first. Well it did mine. It was interesting watching the mono-syllabic teens alongside me struggle when they couldn’t acknowledge the bows they were given weren’t right for them and they couldn’t draw the string to their noses, which is fairly crucial if you want to hit a target. For all their vitality and natural strength, it matters not without communication.
As a thing to learn, I had a fine time, and I have a couple of lessons to go before I decide whether to take this up more regularly and if I do, what sort of archery. Whatever happens in the long-term, it’s good to learn and experience something entirely new and more difficult than anyone actually suspects. It gets the synapses firing, and whether I draw upon all this for any kind of creative endeavour beyond here, well, let’s just say that’s a nice bonus if it happens.