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Experience: A target in sight

January 19, 2019

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My left arm shook with the weight of the long wooden bow and it was with a bit of difficulty that I placed the nock of the arrow perfectly on the bowstring. I curled my fingers over the shaft of the arrow and it took all my strength to keep my aim straight and steady. The bowstring was as elastic as steel — it was clearly designed for more powerful arms. I gritted my teeth and drew back the bowstring and arrow, but the immense effort knocked my aim awry.

There was a badly suppressed giggle from behind me. I turned my head to see that quite a crowd had gathered around, watching me silently but intently at the spring fete. I spotted a few sceptical faces among the interested ones and with renewed determination and slight nervousness, I pulled my eyes back to the archery range.

I repositioned the contraption so that the point of the arrow. When the shaft and the middle of the bow’s arch were in one straight line, I then rather hurriedly pulled back the arrow and let go. There was a dull twang as the string recoiled and we watched my arrow fly a good few feet over the target into the trees behind.

“She’s killed that guy!” someone yelled.

My heart stopped beating for a second and my legs turned to jelly — before laughter from the crowd behind me made me realise that the young man was only poking fun. At the same time, I noticed for the first time the screen placed behind the range at some distance to prevent any accidents.

Slightly miffed, I grabbed another arrow from the quiver and attached it to my bowstring. More cautiously now, I drew the string back and perfected my aim as best as I could. All eyes were on my arrow as I released it and it flew across the range.

There was a low thwack as the razor sharp point of the arrowhead dug into the painted surface of the wooden target. The shaft of the arrow quivered audibly for a few seconds and the decorative feathers on it were a red blur.

Pin-drop silence and then a scattered murmuring could be heard from the crowd. My arrow had not fallen very near the bullseye, but it had hit the target and my aim had been more powerful and more confident than before. Before the effect of this commendable improvement on the crowd could subside, I chose another arrow out of the quiver and aligned it on my bow with some swagger.

The man in charge of the range gave only three attempts on one ticket. This was my last shot. It had to be perfect.

I pulled back the inconveniently hard bowstring with all the strength my arm possessed and with head slightly tilted, eyed the small red circle in the middle of the target. The bullseye, the arrowhead and the arch of the bow were in a perfectly straight line, but the weight of the wooden bow still made my arms shake. I drew in a breath, murmured a word of prayer and released the arrow.

The light of the late afternoon sun glinted on the metallic arrowhead as it shot at full speed towards the target. I knew then that I had shot it with exactly the right amount of strength and the crowd behind me stood with bated breath. There was a dull thwack and a vibrating echo. The red feathers on the arrow shaft glistened in the golden sunlight just a few millimetres on the right of the bullseye.

There was a loud applause from the crowd. A whoop of delight involuntarily escaped my mouth and I beamed delightedly at my wooden bow. My happiness doubled as I witnessed the dumbfounded expressions that had replaced the sceptical and mocking ones. I took one last look at the arrow sticking out victoriously from the near middle of the target and, thinking smugly that I hadn’t done poorly for a girl who had touched a bow and arrow for the first time in her life, gave over the quiver and bow to the person next in line.

The exhilaration of the new experience lasted quite a spell as I visited the other stalls at the spring carnival. In my current mood, the weather seemed to be even more beautiful than usual and I sighed happily as I walked through the food and craft stalls, my fingers sticky from cotton candy and refreshing gola gandas.

I realised how much of life’s pleasure lies in trying out new things and in new experiences. Even though I was very unlikely to ever take up archery as a hobby or career, I felt that the day’s experience was worth a lot because other than the adrenaline of the sport and of having tried something new, it taught me to not let mocking or disapproving people get me down.

Published in Dawn, Young World, January 19th, 2019