Recently, I sat in on a class over at the Amherst Archery Academy, and shot my first bow and arrow in decades. Re-engaging with archery was really enjoyable, and its pursuit offers much for anyone looking to engage in a meaningful recreational activity outdoors this summer.
A quick glance at the academy's website shows that this summer's classes consist of four separate one-week sessions, the first of which (July 9-July 13) is already sold out.
Classes take place on a beautiful field at Bramble Hill Farm in South Amherst. The field is next to a barn, which is used for target storage and as an indoor space in case of inclement weather. Between the open sky above, with the setting sun caressing the western horizon, and the panoramic view of the Holyoke Range to the south, the setting is extremely picturesque. You could do nothing but stand there for the entire hour-and-a-half session, just looking around and enjoying the scenery, and the time would not be wasted.
Kyle Forbes Bissell started the Academy last spring. A physical education teacher at the Common School by day, Kyle has, over the years, accrued a lifetime of experience as an instructor of various outdoor recreations, including skiing, rock climbing and canoeing. He received a master's degree in education from Lesley University and holds a Level I USA Archery certification.
"I teach Olympic-style target archery as a recreation sport and tool for self-awareness and personal growth," Kyle notes at his academy's website. "My instructional philosophies and practices encourage patience, persistence and peace."
It is clear that, for Kyle, the goal of archery is more than the bullseye.
"Archery can help people find their center," he told me, "on the target, as well as inside themselves."
Which brings to mind these lines from Zen in the Art of Archery: "Shooting becomes non-shooting, a shooting without bow and arrow," Eugene Herrigel wrote in his classic treatise. "The teacher becomes a pupil again, the master a beginner, the end a beginning, and the beginning, perfection."