It’s been a whole month since I’ve posted on The Infinite Curve. Never taken that long off before. I’ve been working on some other projects and being distracted by everything you’ve read in the news in the past six weeks or so, plus there’s some other exciting archery stuff in the pipeline next month. But I have been doing something that set me off on this journey; something I haven’t done much in the past couple of years, due to life getting in the way: shooting.
It’s been a bumpy month. I feel I’ve forgotten more than I’ll ever know. The bow seems ever heavier. The form has so many doubts, so many maybe-I-should-try-that-agains. There have been moments of total joy, of 50p-size-groups, of raw confidence coming back. Equally there have been horrible sessions where it feels like I’m just randomly spraying the target face, collapsing on the third arrow. That horrible walk to the bosses with your face on the floor.
It’s difficult and frustrating, but weirdly, I feel ever more determined to tackle it. I’m not what you call a natural talent at recurve archery. When I first picked up a bow seven years ago, I knew pretty quickly I wasn’t heading for Rio, and had the scores to match it. But something in me knew it was essential, something I had to do. I’ve spent pretty much all my life involved in the creative world of some kind; music, writing, where there is always an angle, always a way you can deliver the goods, sneak under the bar.
Archery isn’t like that. It’s probably the cruellest and most unforgiving of any sport. It tests the character. You can go and play five-a-side football on a Saturday morning with a raging hangover, and still put in a creditable, if slow performance. That doesn’t play on the range. There’s an aphorism that ‘nothing calms the mind like shooting a bow’ – that’s never worked for me, unfortunately. For me the whirling mind, full of thoughts and to-dos and fretting leads to appalling archery, arrows missing the boss, wanting to snap carbons in half, and an even less calm mind than when I walked in. Oh, and I badly need a coach. Badly.
But as I’m packing the thing away, I try to remember the famous 1962 JFK speech about the Apollo project:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills.”
Yeah. That’s it. I choose to keep shooting not because it is easy, but because it is hard.
Because it pushes at that part of me that knows that something that hard won is worth striving for. Archery shows me something I want to be, something shining in the distance. I haven’t got there yet, but I’m going to keep taking steps down the road.