by Chila Woychik
“Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and
unlock—more than a maple—a universe.”
—Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
1. A day is an opaque thing, clear enough in the light but slightly muddled upon closer examination. The neighbor drops off a bag of surplus apples. “I can’t eat all these,” she says. Even heavy lines across her elderly face become beautiful when she smiles. They remind us of our too-quickly passing days, and that one day we’ll need to smile like that to be called beautiful too.
2. Rural, thy name is Exploit: potholed, graveled, narrow. So drive the other route. That road is your friend. Quiet, slowly, as you like it—a rising road. Trees flail their empty greetings. Tiny shoots supple and green. There’s rich deep land along the way.
3. My farmer tells me that kerosene, diesel fuel, and jet fuel are nearly the same, and all, with small alterations, can be used in our truck. “Will it fly, then?” I ask. He groans an acquired sound gained after several decades of hearing such intellectually stimulating questions.
4. A hike along these trails worries me little, though the mangy coyotes, rabid raccoon on the highway, dead red fox with bite marks in its side, occasional reports of mountain lions and black bears a county or two away, newly introduced wolves—these leave me thoughtful. I pack Mace and a knife, a dreaded cartridged weapon. I carry a cellphone and a big bad stick. I refuse to be stupid and vulnerable. I respect nature and fear that which considers me a threat or a conquest. We grow not only corn, but endless hills and trees, and nature-turned-predator when an apex stalks. Have you too heard the cry of a puma at dusk?
5. The darkness coughs up wild, thick and heavy in the black. Coyotes, dogs, coyote dogs. Fifty shades of cry. Oh my oh my oh my. More happens at night. Day-things are prettier, most work happens at the lighting of the land, the viewing of a scene, but darkness has a sound too.
6. Deer jump out on nights like this; the glare of headlights blinds them. Once a deer and I ran side by side down the highway a few feet, me in my car, and it on the hoof. When I slowed down it passed in front of me by a mere few inches; I could have stroked its muzzle. When animals move indiscriminately and show themselves, a storm is coming. They know to prepare, make a grocery list, and find a hotel room.
7. When power lines or telephone lines infringe upon tree growth, the tree that stood in the same spot for the past few decades is mutilated rather than the lines more thoughtfully placed. Our row of arborvitae has suffered the indignity of gross impairment and has become a ridiculous testament to convenience.
8. Early Spring, and the hearth’s warm, welcome home, soup and bread, sit here, farmer. Each lifted eye and please come back, grand.
9. Tricking a barn cat into a pet carrier is like luring a Baptist into a Catholic Church: difficult but not impossible. Our two mice hunters keep the rodents at bay in a barn swarming with corn for the chickens. I devise new methods each year to tempt them, one by one, into a small box for a short ride to save their hides from disease. Two cats, two trips, many tricks.
10. Only Divinity can daub a sunset like this; only Providence can turquoise this sky. The underbelly of God is pink and ruffly. These wisps extrude a theology deep with forgiveness, wide with love. The turquoise is the most startling of all, contrasted as it is by a fiery salmon headdress of Incan proportion. It’s all a circle. The high moon slings far, and the black night dives deep while the coyotes croon their ancient song.