I Dreamed A Dream

Posted on March 20, 2012

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“I dreamed a dream in time gone by,
When hope was high and life, worth living.”

                                                                                          –    Les Miserables

  How many of us, from time to time have sat in quiet moments of meditative thought conjuring up images of lofty goals, aspirations and essentially where we would like to see ourselves someday? We call that day-dreaming. Some act on those dreams in an attempt to make them a reality, while others quickly dismiss them as trivial notions and continue life as they have always known it.

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, made the following proclamation while addressing graduates at the 2005 Stanford commencement, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.” He went on to say, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

 

A dream is personal, and like all dreams it remains hidden and unfortunately dormant if not acted upon. The dream must be set in motion by action; your action, your initiative, your sweat, your toil, your enthusiasm, your creativity and your determination to see it through to its fruition despite whatever set-backs and obstacles that are strewn along the path.

They say that perception is everything, and if that is true, then within the sphere of the deer hunting community, I would be considered a success. But my dream was not for fame and glory, as these are but fleeting bed fellows that are as fickle as the breeze of humanity that casts such acclaims. No, mine was to turn my passion for whitetails into a lifelong adventure that didn’t necessarily begin and end with a deer season.

 

J. Scott Olmsted asked the question, “For part of hunting is dreaming, is it not?” He went on to elaborate, “What we discovered before, what we will stumble upon during our next outing – the union of past, present and future is the essence of any hunt few other pursuits can produce.”

The following is the dream that I dared to dream.

 

The Early Years

 

Very few of us are born with the metaphorical ‘silver spoon’ in our mouth. Like me, most work hard by the sweat of the brow for whatever achievement is gained; perhaps even more so for me as I was indeed the runt of the litter. Growing up I was always the smallest in my class. I was the kid on the high school football team who could easily have been mistaken as the mascot, the skinny little kid who wrestled at the 98-lb weight class, and the same kid who found it necessary to take two crow-hops in order to get the baseball across the diamond from third base. Therefore, I learned early on that if I was going to excel, or even compete for that matter, I would have to work twice as hard as anyone else. A fierce determination was born that has served to compensate for what I lacked in stature.

 

That personal resolve played out routinely whenever I was told (and there have been many suede-prophets in my life over the years) I would not be able to accomplish something. Little did those well-meaning folks know that their advice would have quite the opposite effect.  It only spurred me to dig my heals in and prove them wrong. Did this bent to succeed come as a result of needing validation, to demonstrate my abilities or to live out the dream of what I desperately wanted to accomplish?  At times, I’m sure all of the above, but despite my reasoning I never lost sight of my goals.

From my earliest childhood days I loved deer hunting. Although there was little by way of print media available on the subject of white-tailed deer, I learned much as the woods became my classroom and the animal my study. With curiosity and purpose I set out to understand everything possible about this grand creature.

 

Refining the Dream

 

Following my formative years as a deer hunter, having already gained a local reputation as a successful hunter, my dream expanded. Now I was setting my sights on only shooting mature bucks, in the wilderness where I would have to walk them down. Wow, you may be thinking, that’s a pretty ambitious target, and for all intents and purposes, it was, but I needed to follow my heart. I can still remember the night, as if it were yesterday, that my dad told me to give up attempting to track deer; this following a discouraging day of dogging a set of slots without success. And like an old friend showing up at just the right moment, I once again dug in and set about to prove him wrong. The following day I tracked down and killed what is perhaps one of my most memorable bucks ever.

 

All grandiosity aside, I began to stack up quite a number of large bucks killed in a manor that is not easy to do (tracking), in an expansive environment where deer numbers averaged 2-to-5 per square mile. These feats, unfathomable to many, had a way of gaining me recognition (even some notoriety) from afar. I would be lying if I told you this new found attention didn’t strike a chord with my vanity, but vanity is a shallow pool and it certainly wasn’t the driving force behind my dream.

 

Expanding the Dream

 

With recognition comes opportunity and the chance to further capitalize on hard work and successes to foster your dream. The funny thing about dreams is that you don’t necessarily get the entire picture immediately; it sort of evolves and mushrooms over time. I set about to write a book with the sole purpose of sharing what I had learned, my exploits as a deer hunter and to entertain the reader. This was no easy task based on the fact that I had no experience as a writer, barely passed my senior English class and knew nothing about publishing. I didn’t even own a typewriter. But none of that deterred me; I simply wrote the entire book long hand (for those of you who went to public school, that means with pen and paper).

 

It was about that time that I picked up a camera and decided to make wildlife photography a part of my dream as well. With a Nikon 8008s in one hand and a copy of John Shaw’s book, Nature Photography, in the other as my tutor, I set out to perfect this craft. I can still remember sitting at the kitchen table, holding up a magazine cover that depicted a big buck and telling my wife, “One day my photos will appear on covers.” Being the supportive sweetie that she is, her response was, “I have no doubts, it will only be a matter of us surviving the process!” She, better than any other, knew that I never attempted anything half-heartedly, and becoming a professional nature photographer would be no different.

 

Then came the computer, a necessary component that I had to learn and adapt to; quite a transformation for a guy who literally penned his first two books. As this all began to take shape, national hunting magazines began calling for articles and eventually, positions on their mastheads. Adding to an already expanding plate was a demand for me to appear publicly on the speaking circuit to share my whitetail insight with hunters hungry for what I might know.

Keep in mind, behind every successful individual is a supportive team, family, friends etc., and let me assure you, I am no different. Without the help of those folks closet to me, my dream may not have gone very far.

 

Living the Dream

 

The great Scottish poet warrior, William Wallace, once uttered, “All men eventually die, but not all men ever truly live.” The significance to that line, at least to me, is that I set about to truly live out my dream, regardless of the hardships, disappointments, obstacles and deterrents. I indeed was living out my dream, one where each day, in some medium I was completely enmeshed with the white-tailed deer.

However, unlike a fairytale, where the script is usually without trials, each successive plateau I reached brought with it a whole new set of challenges. For each success there have been multiple failures, the one reality that few ever get to hear about. After all, no one ever really wants to hear about someone’s setbacks.

In essence, I have and continue to live out my dream to the beat of one drummer. I have followed my heart using whatever talents that have been so graciously bestowed upon me, been persistent, and worked very hard for what accomplishments that have come as a result of this philosophy. Remaining true to my vision has been far more important to me than accolades or “selling out” to an industry. After all, it is my dream.

 

The Reality of the Dream

 

Joseph Epstein once said, “We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents, or the country of our birth. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and condition of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.” That is the dash between the starting and ending point.

“We all have dreams, hopes and aspirations.” As Erwin McManus writes, “Why then do some of us realize our dreams and advance forward while others watch timidly from a distance and hope for a break?”

 

Is it as a result of not wanting to risk failure? Perhaps you’re paralyzed waiting for the right opportunity or best case scenario. McManus continues, “We have but one life. We are given on opportunity to pursue our dreams and fulfill our divine purpose. Every moment counts, and we must engage them with fierceness and zeal.”

As I continue to live out my dream, unaware of what may be around the next mysterious bend in the trail, I do so with great confidence, resolve and faith. I am of the firm belief that the dream I have dared to live is one that was clearly designed and engineered by a benevolent, wise, loving and engaged Father.

 

To this day I find great solace intermingled with excited anticipation from behind the lens of my camera; a sense of freedom as I express myself in written word; humility when I engage audiences sharing both whitetails and my faith; and – no real surprise here – giddy excitement whenever I’m on the track with a weapon in my hand.  I love my job! How about you?

All images on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier

    © 2012 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.

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