At four this morning I drive my younger son to where he’d scouted turkeys the week before. It is opening day of spring turkey season. The road is spongy; fog obscures the potholes, and I drive slowly. There are vestiges of the prior day’s snowfall visible at the fringe of the headlights’ range. We climb a knoll, then the road flattens, and suddenly there is a man running in the dark, plodding through the mud and melting snow along the roadside, his shoulders leaning into the effort. I love being out at this time of day, it’s a window into a secret world, things are happening that I never knew happened, and I like the sense of possibility that comes with that awareness. I slow as we pass the man and try to see his face, but though he wears a headlamp, the fog is thick, and the darkness is near-complete, and I don’t want him to notice me staring. But I want badly to know what he looks like, what it looks like to be somebody who rises so early (or stays up so late? Even more intriguing!) to run a muddy back road in northern Vermont.
I’m not much of a turkey hunter (not much of a hunter of anything, honestly, though I generally do ok during black fly season), so I drop my son and head home, hoping to catch another hour of sleep. I look for the running man, but he’s not to be found. Still, I imagine him carrying on, one labored step after another, shoes and socks wetted through, shins aching cold with mud and melted snow. It’s not light yet, but it’s a different shade a dark, a shade in the direction of light. I think I’ll be able to sleep when I get home. I think about my son, sitting at the base of the tree he’d picked out, the day slowly coming alive around him. I don’t know what kind of tree it is; I wasn’t there when he decided, and I didn’t ask, and because I cannot picture the tree, I can no longer picture my son sitting beneath it, it’s like that one missing detail throws everything off.
Reluctantly, I let it go. The tree will be what the tree will be. It’s enough to know it’s there.