I don’t do many interviews these days, but I really enjoyed doing this one with Daniel Vitalis. Hope you enjoy.
Morning light in the barnyard
On Saturday morning I turned left instead of right out our driveway, and so rode past Dan’s house just as he was emerging on his way to the logging job he’s on. It was barely 6:00, and we talked a few minutes, then I rode on, and he got in his truck and went to work. I rolled fast down a steep hill past still-unmown hayfields and at the bottom turned to pedal alongside the mountain stream, where I soon came upon a doe and her spotted fawn standing in water. Drinking. Each of us surprising the other, the doe suddenly alert, tail twitching, long legs moving this way then that, prancing in place, but all the while her attention trained on me. As was mine on her. The fawn hadn’t seen me, and kept trying to nurse, and eventually latched on. I wanted to stay but now felt an intruder, so began to pedal again. Uphill now. In another mile or so I passed a house where two rabbits sat under the front bumper of a Ford Mustang, the rabbits fat and furry, the car sleek and black. Then over the bridge and past the small house of the man who lives alone with no car and a yard full of perennial plantings. I see him working outside often, but he does not invite conversation, and I know little about him other than what I have just written plus the fact that he seems to me somehow ageless and I’ve heard he walks 10 miles a day or more, but surely this is exaggeration. Another half-mile, and I’m through the narrow bend where the old roadside maples bear the scars of vehicles traveling too fast, too wide, and there are John’s big Devon oxen, still bedded down, those goddamn magnificent horns thrusting skyward. They watch me disinterestedly, even dismissively, almost as if they have no idea how fascinating I am. They’ll figure it out eventually.
Soon I arrived home. I dove into the pond, the water exactly as cold as I’d hoped it would be.
Rain in the night, and still more as day broke. A relief, really; it’s amazing how quickly the ground turned to thirst, cars tailing plumes of dust along the mountain road, the creek low and quiet. Sometimes in the early mornings I ride my bicycle to the top of the mountain and back. I like how the trees – maples, mostly – knit their leafed branches together over the road, forming a tunnel as the climb begins in earnest. I pedal into the tunnel just as the sun is rising, and suddenly everything is dim again, and there I am in the near-dark with my heart in my ears, the birds in morning song, the dry dirt crackling beneath the tires of my old bike.
I realize just now how often I write of early day, and I’m pretty sure why: I think there is something about the break of day that brings one closer to the inner workings of heart and mind, even if only to realize that the inner workings of heart and mind are as cluttered and fumbling as ever. Which I suppose is itself a certain clarity for the truth it speaks.
It is my habit to sit in silence for few minutes upon awakening, in the winter before the wood stove, in the summer perhaps the same, or outside atop one of the large stones that protrudes from the ground at the height of the knoll above our house. I don’t entirely understand the value of this habit; I tried for a while to understand, but have finally (and wisely, I think) given up on the expectation of it even having value. But I continue to do it anyway, mostly even when I don’t much want to, and I sense it is doing something for me, even if I don’t know what “it” is.
Then it occurs to me that maybe it’s nothing. And maybe that’s ok.