On the morning of New Year’s Day, I skied early and long, climbing the hayfield across the road, then looping through the sugar woods, then down again to an old logging track that eventually became a narrower trail, vaguely discernible in the abundance of snow. Eventually I arrived at the backside of a large pond a few miles from here, and there I turned back, as I’d been gone longer than promised already. On the ski home, I came to a place where a deer’s journey had converged with my own, the hoof prints laid over my ski tracks, fresh as could be. How pleasing to think of the animal following my path, if only for a while.
That evening, driving home from picking up a used exterior door, I passed a wild turkey hen flopping desperately at the side of the road. I stopped the car to see what services I could render, but the bird was badly damaged, one wing all but torn from her body. I dropped my booted heel on her head three times in quick succession, waited a minute for her nervous system to quiet, then carried her to the car.
On the remaining short drive home I felt a deep, almost tearful sadness for the bird, one whose roots I could not quite identify at the time, though in hindsight have come to identify as the juxtaposition between these two encounters: the peaceful convergence of the deer’s wanderings and mine, and the stark brutality of the hen’s demise. How fearful she must have felt, there on the frozen shoulder of the road, broken beyond repair, unsure of my intentions. And rightly so, as it turned out.
Perhaps, too, there is something about our current political landscape embodied in my sadness. The evident brutality of it has made me uneasy; I feel almost a little shaky at times. Don’t get me wrong: I recognize that brutality is inherent to our nation’s doctrine of exceptionalism, no matter who holds the reigns. Nonetheless, something is different now. Or maybe it’s not so different; maybe it’s just clearer, more outspoken and, in a tragic way, more honest. Maybe that’s what’s most troubling.
I’d hoped I could coerce the boys into dressing the bird, but they were deep into a long-promised movie when I arrived home, so I laid some newspaper on the floor and got to plucking. The feathers came out easy. They were so, so soft in my hands.
• • •
The other big event of New Year’s Day is that my hard drive crashed. Being the fool I am, I did not have much of anything backed up, and much was lost. I say this because the complications of recovering from this event (and honestly, it’s sobering to be reminded of my dependence on this technology) will likely mean fewer posts for a while, and probably some old photos, because much as it pains me to admit, I know at least some of you are here for Penny’s photos as much, if not more so than my words. I mention this also as a reminder to those of you who do not regularly backup your computer: Don’t let this happen to you!