I write to return home. I write because I’ve been away a long time, but that doesn’t excuse my forgetting.
I write to memorize by sight the difference between a hawk and a turkey vulture, to remember that while both birds coast on invisible currents of wind, the wingspans, color, and beaks are different in obvious ways to the trained eye.
I write to remember how the water levels change in the mountain streams at different times of year. To remember that fall color comes early and electric when the water levels run high; fall comes first with the sunrise, again at sunset and eventually lasts all day.
I write because of the look on my father’s face when I could no longer peg where the sounds in the woods were coming from. I’d forgotten the way the hills throw calls and echoes. The barking we’d heard in the woods last night were fox, and their den was in the woods behind the field, not across the street by the creek bed.
I’d forgotten the cold sweat that comes with being woken in the dead of the night by howls of a coy dog pack marching like an army over the back hill, the feeling of knowing that everyone else in the house is also awake, listening to the same sounds, and it will be the first thing mentioned at breakfast.
I’d forgotten the way deer throw themselves in front of cars like so many kamikaze soldiers, and the way they look at you like you’re the one that doesn’t belong. They are happy to die on the hood of your car again and again to prove this point.
I’d forgotten the way ladybugs stream indoors through gaps in the windowpanes, the feeling of waking up with one behind my ear and one stuck to my eyelid. The way daddy-long-legs cluster up together in corners of rooms that need to be aired out, and that their legs form a nest so tangled that sometimes not even they can get themselves out of it.
I’d forgotten the way everyone who works at the factory in town also carries a pager, how they’re so happy to volunteer, how they all show up for the monthly pancake breakfast and will gladly do what they can in the event of a fire.
Because I’d forgotten how hard it is to run a farm, and exactly what it takes to restore one to its former glory. I’d forgotten what it means to lose a cow or a tractor, and I’d forgotten how forgiving the soil can be if you just burn the fields every now and again. I’d forgotten what an acre looks like, what ten looks like, what it means to own more than one hundred, to be responsible for that land and to know every inch of it like you do the body a lover.
Because everybody owns a gun and sometimes those owners get confused enough to point those guns at family. Because children go unclaimed but still grow up right. Because times are so tough the only thing left to do is drink yourself into a hole too deep to ever crawl out of. Because there is never an occasion too fancy for canvas coveralls and steel toed boots. You know everything about everyone, and because of this there’s no need to say hello, and sometimes not saying hello is the greatest act of mercy.
I write because, like everyone, I am more than the mundane. I am more than the countless loads of laundry I do every week, more than the bills I pay, more than the diapers I change and the company I keep. I am more than what I do for money. Because, while I love them more intensely than I ever thought possible, I am still more than the baby at my breast and the partner in my bed, and because I want them to know that no matter how much they love me, they are more than me too. I write because I carry more than just grocery bags and beach bags and hiking packs, more on the inside than my arms could ever hold.
More than anything because I hate to be alone, and my words are my echo, and there are many hills and valleys, and my echo is an endless voice, and my voice a constant companion. Because of these things, I write.