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Nock, Draw… Release

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I arrive at my spot. I have never been truly sure what makes it my spot, but it is clearly there for me. I pause and let my gaze play up and down the field, smiling in greeting at the drowsy eddies of mist that cling to the wet grass.

Laying my quiver down, I unsling the bow from my back, appreciating the stark contrast between the golden sheen of the oiled wood and the gray mist. Carefully, I slip my leg between the slack string and the bow stave and set about stringing the bow. That done, I select one of my blue and green fletched arrows and, with a practiced flick of my wrist, set it upright in the grass at my feet.

It is always this way with archery. The preparatory steps are ingrained in the mind; a ritual whose completion prepares not only the equipment but also the archer’s mind. Assuming an open stance, I begin the archer's mantra, unchanged since the Hundred Years War: Nock, draw… release.


First, I take up my bow, and as I do so, a new process begins, one that is at once as familiar as it is mysterious. The empty bow feels like an eager extension of my left arm, yearning to fulfill its potential. I quickly oblige it. Gently, I tug free one of my arrows and, with a fluid movement, nock it upon the bowstring. The first two fingers of my right hand rest lightly on the string, one on either side of the nock. The arrow has now become a part of the entity that was, a moment ago, merely myself and my bow.


Shifting my position, I align myself with a speck of white on the distant hillside. The white paper plate stares back at me, held upright against the hill by a broken arrow through its heart. In some strange way, it too must become part of my currently tripartite being. My attention still fixed on the plate, I draw the string back to my ear. The feathers brush my face and whisper to me.

The time for release is drawing near, but a familiar thought flits across my awareness, as it always does at this stage. Archery is a strange activity, for it has no jargon verb to call its own. A fencer fences, and a batsman bats, but an archer…? An archer releases. It is such a quiet term, release. However this quietness suits it, for it is, in truth, a modest action… there, the thought has passed in a heartbeat, and I continue the mantra.

Before release there exists a pause. Although not quantifiable, it has a definite purpose. It is the same pause that exists between an open circle and a closed one, between reading something and understanding it. It is during this timelessness where Archer, Bow, Arrow, and Target must find each other. Having done so, all that remains is to…


My fingers twitch. The bow and string spring joyously forward. The arrow leaps from the whole and into the air, a bird clad in the colors of the world, winging through a sunlit sky. The target watches all impassively, watches as its beginning and end approaches it. For this most fleeting of moments, between the beginning and the end, I am all things; Archer, Bow, Arrow, and Target. And then, in the thrum of a string, the rustle of feathers, and the soft "plock" of collision, I am only me.

It is too far to the target to see where my arrow now resides, and I begin my walk out to recover it, relishing the tingling in the tips of my bow fingers. The warmth on my face causes me to realize that the mist has burned off, and with it, those lazy wisps from before. The grass is now dry and springy under my step, and all the world seems revealed in the warm light.

Eventually, I reach the target. It seems to grin up at me, a haunting Cheshire grin. Yet, I know why it is grinning, for that same warm light has revealed my arrow, its bright blue and green feathers standing proudly in the air, a good three feet from the plate. However, I am not perturbed. Why should I be? Calmly, I stoop down and patiently work my arrow free from the reddish soil. Then, with a smile to match the plate's, and my arrow tucked safely under my arm, I begin the long walk back towards my spot. There will be many more nocks, draws, and… releases today. Perhaps I will hit the plate, perhaps I won't. Ultimately that is beside the point.

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About E. G. Saratelli

  • Nice. I haven’t shot a bow in twenty years but you captured that elusive quality, that sense of connection, quite well.

    You made me want to go and shoot again…