Have you ever wondered what matters most in your life? Of course, many would answer a family and health. And yes, these are overriding values, inalienable treasures to carry through life. In a sentence: a sort of first aid kit intended to cover the entire span of time between birth and passing to the other side.
But what if there were more?
If there is something akin to a lifelong universal lesson, it seems that our generation has just received one. Loneliness amid the white noise of internet lingo is as painful as that associated with actual solitude. We all felt it first-hand. Yes, we followed each other on Facebook, wrote emails, challenged one another to do all sorts of things, and all for one purpose: to sense closeness, bridge the void of isolation in a world full of friends and loved ones that you know are there, but you can’t reach them. It’s like trying to feel nearness through thick tinted glass, you seem to know that they are on the other side, that your space is only a few inches apart and yet it’s not the same one. Loneliness often has the face of a dear one whom you miss. And now imagine someone whose loneliness has dozens of faces. People you never thought you’d miss until fate took them away from you. Friendship is a big, weighty word, though, unlike the way we talk about it, it is as light and fleeting as a feather, creeping up on people unnoticed and catching them like a butterfly in its snare. Yet in pursuit of understanding it, we had to go through this strange time of separation. Only this tangible perspective made us wake up to the fact that life is about the little things: A chat with a colleague, a handshake with the one you like, or a sip of coffee drunk from a tin cup on the dewy grass, but with your best friend with whom you love going for competitions, time spent together in your favorite forest with a bunch of friendly faces, with a bow in hand, among those at the thought of whom your heart speeds up a little.
We waited a long time until the day finally came and we all bound for Laois, wherein Clonkeen woods range, Laois Archery Club, after a break of a year and a half, has created an opportunity for us to rejoice in the presence of our friends by organizing on Sunday 13th June a Marked Animal round.
Looking at the countenances of long-awaited friends, it was impossible to rid oneself of the impression of mutual liberation. And indeed, for us – folks of open range, it seems like a peculiar time of freeing. The number of people attending was just over 50. The archers were divided into groups, each with a different start time (based upon their arrival) to keep a safe distance between competitors. Most of the participants registered online, the rest were able to do so on-site in a dedicated area slightly away from the common picnic ground, where the principle of social distancing was also observed in accordance with government and HSE guidelines. The sun shone fine, by nine o’clock it was hot as on a frying pan and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. It would seem that Nick Anton, the Chair of Laois Archery, had, in a way known only to himself, won such weather from providence. The only question is what sort of price came along with it? Anyhow, there are no difficulties that this club cannot cope with: the competition range was prepared in a phenomenal way, given the topography, the course setter did the seemingly impossible, sing every tree, branch, a barely perceptible play of light and shadow (significantly affecting perspective and sense of distance), the slightest slope of the terrain, curves of paths, becoming more of an artist than a competition organizer. For this kind of work, you need to have a certain sensitivity and feel something more than a simple connection with nature. Maybe it is risky what I am saying, but I think that one has to be born with it, this kind of willingness cannot be learned. It is something extraordinary, a gift from a higher institution, either you have it or not.
As always at IFAF events, the participants behaved more than respectably, all friendly, willing to help, gallant, and courteous. Laois Archery provided an endless supply of water, tea, and coffee. During the break, archers enjoyed delicious burgers, steaks, and hotdogs grilled by Nick Kavanagh (Laois Archery Club member) at a very affordable price. In addition to meat, you could taste really good vegan chili (Nick’s own recipe). The food was so delish that poor Nick went home hungry since even the smallest delicacy from his barbecue ended up on the attendees’ plates.
Numerous national records were set during the competition in various age groups and categories:
1. Bow Hunter Recurve:
Lynn Ellingworth (Wexford Archery Club),
Jessica Quinn (Laois Archery Club, Cub 8 years old),
Staś Tomaszewski (Laois Archery Club, Cub 8 years old),
Helen Kavanagh (Dunbrody Archers),
2. Barebow Recurve:
Gerard Eady (Swan Lake),
3. Freestyle unlimited:
Deidre Shannon (Kilmore Archery Club),
Michael Burke (Warbow Ireland),
Patricia Banon (Laois archery Club),
Luise Cashman (Cork City Archery Club),
Tom Joyce (Laois Archery Club),
5. Traditional Recurve IFAA:
Michelle Jay (Laois Archery Club),
6. Traditional Recurve IFAF:
Olivia Reynolds (Laois Archery Club),
Robyn Neylon (Laois Archery Club),
Brian Murphy ((Laois Archery Club),
The event should be regarded as very successful, both in terms of sport and purely social aspects. Unfortunately, there was no traditional medal ceremony (awaited especially by children) but as usual, the organizers were up to the task and sent the winners special certificates by e-mail. Participation in the competition gave me great pleasure and judging by observation I can risk a thesis that everyone who left Laois returned home with a feeling of accomplishment, regardless of the results of the qualifications. As things stand, we can only hope for an equally successful, if not better, Irish Archery Field Championship, organized this year by the Kiligarry archers, and quietly hope for the presence of Nick Kavanagh and his ever-expanding array of secret barbecue recipes.
Freedom has no price, open range and nature always and everywhere bring people to their knees, but this is fine, and all the more reason why we need this admiration and kind thoughts, so that we learn. Let us look to the future with hope, let us roam the vast planes and dense forests all the way to the end. As we are the folk of open range, tireless, undefeated, winding ahead like our arrows toward the set goal.
by Marcin Malek