in which we get our arrows

an homage to Loteria!

Mine are the tasteful gray and yellow; Mr Speed’s are the garish black and bright pink. (When I showed them to a small group of friends and asked them to identify which ones were whose, they all instantly guessed correctly.) Here’s an amazing fact about these arrows: the tips never need sharpening.

in which we are fitted for bows and arrows

limbs (bolt end), bow stringer

After minor deliberation, we chose KAP T-Rex takedown recurve bows, slightly-better-than-absolute-beginner level. They have a riser (the thing you hold on to) made of cast aluminum, and laminated wood and fiberglass limbs that slip on and off with a satisfying system of set screws and bolts. We are trusting our teacher’s recommendations here totally. I love being a beginner!

magnetic arrow rest, grip

Mr. Dean is making our arrows to fit us exactly. Many charts were consulted, measurements taken, and performances observed. Mine will have gray and yellow feathers; Mr Speed chose black and bright pink. The arrow shaft is Easton Jazz Purple, described on their website as “an economy shaft for youth and archers shooting low poundage bows… exciting, durable, hard anodized violet color with highlights.” A girl’s first arrow should be a special thing.

upper limb tip, bow string

We got a hardshell case big enough to hold both of our disassembled bows and all the weird new stuff that goes with them: bow strings (also handmade by Mr. Dean), a bow stringer, complex bowsights, finger guard thingies, a little bag of tiny hex wrenches, and our beautiful arrows.

The whole process took about three hours, and about $800. Happy birthdays!

where the limb fits into the riser

In between being measured and assessed, I chatted with a gentleman as he was packing up his gear, who has been shooting arrows for 24 years. His stuff was futuristic space age jetpack amazing, like when you’re 11 years old and you get to hang out with your friend’s teenage sister, and she has beautiful hair and is really nice to you. Something to aspire to.

That’s another thing I’m really enjoying — a peek into this archery community. There is a diverse cast of characters, and they’re thus far all so very encouraging of our decision to learn. For now, though, I’m an outsider, a fledgling: hopeful, determined, wanting their help and their welcome.

Both of my parents were archers. I claim a place here, in the lineage. Last night, invoking my father, I shot my first bull’s eye.

Not only the bull’s eye, but the x.

limb (bolt end), handmade bow string with brass nock point

in which I learn of something I cannot do

My mother, Louise, circa 1957. Apparently, archery is genetic.

After the success of our family archery debut in Pacifica, Mr Speed and I took another lesson, an hour long, with a local teacher named James Dean. Mr. Dean has been shooting arrows for 44 years, and his enthusiasm is as fresh and apparent as the depth of his knowledge. He is also funny, and a storyteller, and he kind of reminded me of Dennis Leary. We were both captivated.

We used recurve bows with sights this time, and one of the assessments Mr. Dean made was to determine our dominant eye for the purpose of sighting and aiming. Mine is my right eye, and so, at final aim before loosing the arrow, I was to close my left eye. Except… my left eye will not close independently of my right eye.

Go ahead. Try it. Can you close your left eye while keeping your right eye open? You can? Fine. Well, can you close your right eye while keeping your left eye open? At the same time? You can? Oh, don’t be so innocently smug.

WTF. Somehow, I have gotten along my entire life — until this moment — being able to close only my right eye. What’s more, I didn’t even know that I don’t know how to close my left eye at will. Why this gap in core competency? Where were my parents when I was failing to develop this ability?  What else do I not know I can’t do?!

After offering to smack me in the left eye to close it, Mr. Dean quickly reassured me that I could then sight and shoot with both eyes open… until he determined that, in fact, I was focusing with my left eye. Which I guess goes a long way (finally) in explaining my notorious left/right directional dyslexia. Or something. Anyway, my homework this week is to learn how to close my left eye and at the same time keep my right eye open.

Though I am an old dog, I can learn new tricks. I will make up for my obviously impoverished and deficient childhood, which is when I assume regular people learned this stuff. (Let it be known, however, that I can do the “live long and prosper” sign. On both hands.)

And we’ll be back at the archery range next Friday, for our new date night. I cannot wait.