Outside of Tillamook, Oregon
Out behind the garage, where the fill-dirt sloughs off at the edge of the drain field, just short of where the property line makes its weak assertion of a corner, a portal opens. It is a deer path, an onramp, an airstrip. I do not know what it is; only that it leads away from the place where I live.
I did not notice it when we first moved here; now I cannot help but see the sheen of grass laid flat by traffic, the arch of bough and limb, the tunnel of berry vines kept at bay—and feel its pull. It was the traffic that first caught my eye: the startled deer disappearing one winter only to emerge next spring and summer with one then two speckled fawns; twenty elk grazing in the starlight turn at one silent order, cross the threshold and are swallowed.
I have peered after them in every kind of light. The seasonal stream finds its way there, perhaps 100 yards in—I hear its voice—but no crow flies here to measure the distance. It is not a human path. My eyes cannot penetrate more than a dozen feet before the camouflage patterns unravel my sense of depth and confuse the boundaries between outstretched finger and twig. I cannot bring myself to take the plunge and follow. Call it respect. Or fear. Perhaps attachment to the life I know would be left behind. Some paths are not to be taken lightly. But some day…