There is a circle of mushrooms in the yard, and sometimes, after days of rain, there are two circles next to each other, like conjoined soap bubbles. The dog on her long leash will decapitate them, leaving bare spongy stalks. I try to make certain there are always enough to form a circle. Still, she will slip her leash and go tearing off through town and I wonder, who did she hear calling?
At dusk, or in the early morning fog, a doorway will open up. The path that normally loops through a copse of trees to the shed will no longer take you to your destination. A cool breeze in the heat, calling you deeper in the woods. Sometimes it’s the way the light falls, the glinting of an ethereal beauty. It’s a clear invitation and that’s exactly why it should be given a wide berth.
It’s important to acknowledge that if you’ve actually seen something looking back at you, it’s already too late.
My wife dreams of a boat appearing in the pond. It’s blue, she says, and floats soundless on the water. I beg her to ignore such a thing, if it ever appears outside of dreams, but I can see that she would climb right in, disregarding her feet getting wet as she wades out, or the fact that the pond is too small for a boat to go anywhere farther than a few paddle strokes away.
I am not very clumsy, but I trip frequently in the yard on small tip-toe-sized holes. I spill tea from my otherwise steady hand. I dump the water I was refilling for the chickens all over my feet. It’s not so much I feel someone is watching, but that someone is laughing.
There are ferns I do not trim and clusters of wildflowers I do not mow over, even if it leaves odd patches on the lawn.
I worry about saying my daughter’s name too loudly when we’re playing outside, but I tell myself there must be some rule of deliberateness, that overhearing isn’t enough to snatch power. She disappears under the arc of an overgrown holly bush. “The trees will keep us warm, Mommy,” she says, and I know she’s already beloved by someone other than me.
We lose a chick in the thick undergrowth. Instead of heading for the door of her coop, she dashes off away from her sisters. We can hear her cheeping, panicked, but she is only palm-sized and an instinctive hider. The full moon is out, though it isn’t yet dark, and in desperation, I plead in clumsy rhyme for help finding her, offering to put out a bowl of milk for her safe return. She rustles and runs and I snatch her up. I put out a pink bowl of half-and-half in the dark later that night. It seems untouched in the morning, but I still see the trampled foot paths where we hunted for her weeks after growth should have erased them.
Do not close your eyes outside in the dark. Do not step unawares into the morning fog. Always keep your desire to return home in the forefront of your mind.
The crows fly by and caw from the trees but never land on our grass. I wish I could understand what they’re trying to tell me. But if they told me to leave, I’m not sure I could. Or if I did leave, who would be left to come with me.