Walking quiet in the woods.
Backpack stuffed with goods.
Apple. Cold hamburger. Juice. Water.
Journal. 22 on one hip.
Belt ax and multitool on the right.
Shoes fit right. Or would’ve been left behind.
Nothing louder than a dog-breath.
She wants to go.
All a walk is to my dog is a long enough reason
to turn back home. In many ways, the superior species.
All the comfort of our technology with absolutely no responsibility.
We tell ourselves heads was a better choice than tails.
The self-aggrandizing tales we tell.
Trying to walk quiet as can be through a sea of poisonous leaves.
Trying to sneak up on animals is like trying to rob a thief.
Those who live by it will always be better at such things.
Not me. I’ve no reason to be quiet in the woods.
The right last name and all this poison
means I share this place with no person.
Only early morning animals.
Safe beyond reason.
All out of season.
December thirteenth. North Carolina. I hear a tree frog click. Fire crack.
The same dog over and over. A layered silhouette of trees against tees
misled me into thinking I can glimpse the shape of the gully in front of me.
Hard wooded. Known to house turkeys. One fat cornfed squirrel.
I blame the calendar for most problems.
They make it too easy to wait.
The calendar always made me late.
Mark one a holy day.
People sacrifice hundreds of others preparing for it.
Marking them off as they get in their way.
With seasons, on the other hand, we are ahead of the game.
Like tonight. It isn’t even winter yet. And already, it’s spring.
A letter to friends. First things first. Snow.
There really is no clearer demonstration of how rare it is to call something beautiful
that isn’t also dangerous. One of those unique instances nowadays
that’s impossible to argue with. I mean, look up. It’s that same cluttered,
pupil-shrinking prism for all of us. Weather.
And we fall under it.
What does that tell us?
The tilt of our wonderfully imperfect earth. The pull of the moon, pulled like a rib
from the belly of our world. The storied soil we work on and eat from and take on
yet cry and bemoan any opportunity or demand to give back. Which is inevitable.
It disrespects the dead to fear death this much.
That’s what winter is for. Every year, for a month, or a few, our planet tries to bury us.
Freeze us out. Toughen us up. Shed old leaves and dream and make plans for spring
staring longingly into fires as we listen for kettles to whistle
more eager than dogs do for dinner bells.
Wheels are not really ideal for snow.
Clothing becomes a form of shelter. As much home as one can carry worn like armor.
It can be the difference between a good day and that one day. Extra gloves. Dry socks.
Nature Valley bar. Lukewarm coffee.
It really is the little things that separate being outdoors from hell on earth.
Come equipped. Be stubborn about it. Dress in layers. Prepare for change.
A good nickname for winter. Change. Different.
Roll with the punches off a rolling earth.
Be buried up in ice and frozen rain and dig a way out.
By the shovelful. Claw with bare hands if you have to.
A pretty titanic lesson that’s been working on me over the past year.
Which events of life am I truly willing to let deter me. Cold? Rain? Snow?
Were these elements not in the forecast when I set my plans. My intentions.
Yes. Of course they were.
These seasons have been forecast for millennia.
Put your boots on and play in them. Shovel out the drive and go adventuring.
Leave some tracks in something that was pristine when you first got there.
Perfect. Clean. And powder. Like paper. Put a story in it.
The greatest form of flattery is imitation.
So show winter it is not the only one of us who is willing to change.
Say to the earth, this is how I roll.
I, like you, stop for nothing.
I get to work in this beautiful world today. White stuff spray painted on top of green stuff. Black asphalt with white in the cracks like ice cream breaking through chocolate. A crunch to each step. Soggy leather toes. So many outspoken crows, decorating up and down trees pin dots of dark on bare bouncing branches. I will let my eyes loose like dogs freed from leashes, to run around the yard and pick up what they find. I will feed my mind soggy milk sunrises on little blue black centered spoons. Smell cold. Taste the weather. Feel it creep into my clothes and dig claws into my skin. Keeps me moving. This insistent world we’re using for a blank palette, even though it’s covered clear over in more layers of paint than one can count, brushed over like no account. But not by me. I move menial amounts of earth, and dirt, and filth on a daily basis. Many mini mountains that could not have stayed where they are without consequences. Gathering up waste because one day we’ll like the taste. One day we’ll all be that much stronger for all the shit we’ve gone through. But today, we go to work. In a beautiful world. Clouds like frozen ocean. Grass like it has seen a ghost. Cars lined in white. Every door, every window, almost every portal closed tight. Except for eyes.
I walk into the cold light of this beautiful morning with eyes open wide.
Short grass. Embedded yellow. Three leaves outspread.
And torn wax paper. And broke-leaning picnic table.
And gravel dented by tire tread. Leaves alive and dead.
Brown roots. Paled maize flowers misplaced by poplars.
and an unmade path to walk
and roadways to drive along.
To follow, so far, so long, not even seen like litter.
Buildings so full of people, from so many castes,
not viewed like trash. Light blue sharing violet
in pale cloud-filtered light, at the tip of a blade of grass.
Not a needle in a stack of hay, not one of the same
stacked one on top of another, but piles of pure plethora.
Plethora festering on plethora on plethora.
A cracked black plastic spoon.
A styrofoam corner. And me.
Shoe-wrapped feet, and seated body,
and black bag, and marble journal,
and phone whistling Modest Mouse.
Short grass, embedded with yellow,
and three leaves outspread.
All torn like wax paper.
All broke and leaning.
And I am writing.
What you are reading.
These mountain dandelions are different than the ones back home.
They make our fluffy yellow flowers look like house-cats. Not lions at all.
They’re yellow fringed and orange centered with green eyelashes all around.
Roar pollen into the wind. Through the leftover of million year pressure, they dig.
Root like pigs. Into the side of hard gray lichen coated ground.
They creep through grass and launch on eyes like prey.
Where they mindlessly graze.
Across the hazy miles that crown sleepy towns like haloes.
They grow low, heads stooped.
And warn us off to keep on walking.
Dandelion heads buried in green.
I miss the sun. I miss light in my skin. I miss being out in it. Sometimes I take walks with my father’s bow. But I must have poor aim. Because I always seem to miss the things I’ve seen. The places I’ve been. The stress that saw my character compressed into this exact form. Callused fingers. Stuffy nose. Holes missing from all my favorite clothes. And now that I am more settled than I have ever been before. It is almost time to go. Back out into that summer light. The inescapable weight and heat of a whole season and a half spent leaned toward our closest star. Which is still pretty damn far. Enough that in a few months we’ll be missing it and more. Like I’m avoiding it now. Less than four feet to my right through a window. Less than eight feet and out through a door. I could hit it with an arrow with my eyes closed, but set one foot there, and they won’t pay me for it. Just take it and thank me as if I had handed it over of my own accord. Of course, I didn’t.
In short, I won’t miss the sun anymore. Or light in my skin. Or being out in it.
I have a better shot now than I ever had before. I’ve been target practicing,
launching my eyes through windows at work. And I’m getting good.
Soon, there will be a few arrows sticking out from the sun.