There was a voice crying in the wilderness and it was mine. The wilderness was the vast writing landscape where writers journey; yet for a long, long, long time the portion of this place I frequented was devoid of human response. My writing was not audible.
Then, one day I went hunting with my son, Beau. I had never done this before. In the past, Beau went hunting with me. Once, in faded frames of fall, we hunted down snow-deep hillsides, back up which I had to bully and drag his complaining, small, self. Then his legs were too short, and he was too inconsequential in the wilderness to be anything other than resistant. Fear shaped his view of the overly-large world: fear that I would leave him and a bear would eat him; fear I wouldn’t take him with me at all, and the baby sitter would eat him; fear of the unknown.
But the day Beau took me hunting, our roles changed. Beau was suddenly tall, taller than I.
Tall and broad, his vest and red plaid shirt stretched on his wide shoulders, and bobbed in front of me like a beacon in the endless white. His long legs climbed the snowy hill, seemingly unchallenged, while I panted and sweated, slithered and floundered behind him wondering if I would live through the experience. What had changed? Everything.
My perspective of how I fit in the world shifted forever and I was thunderstruck. Neither Beau nor I got a deer that day, but death hovered in my heart like an arrow. It was not the hunted that died on that fall-draped hillside but the hunter. My own mortality rolled over me like volleys from a cavalry troop. The first barrage buckled me to my knees beneath my inevitable demise; the second volley came more as painful, single shots—horror—regret—anger—defeat—jealously—and finally, sorrow. I was dead, but it still hurt so I cried.
I railed against the unfairness. Beau was not the one who grew too fast. It was I who grew too fast. I wanted to yank back the falling curtain and scream, NO!–we haven’t begun yet. But the certainty of endings kept sliding down like snow, filling in our tracks, inexorably removing even the rumor of our presence.
What I found that day was not fear, as had Beau when he saw the size of the world through his four-year-old eyes. What I saw that day was a world without me in it. It was not a place I wanted to know. I fell in love with my world again. I began to whisper love songs to this Autumn world in my prose. Perhaps if my words were sweet enough, I would be granted a stay of the inevitable. Perhaps I would look through the eyes of a four year old again and find wonder and fear. And just perhaps, someone would listen.
Who will hear these whispers? When I am no longer there to be dragged over another log as we make our way up a perpendicular hillside, chasing an elusive hart, will Beau listen to the wind and hear my voice? Perhaps our time together will only echo in his heart. Or perhaps, as happens with our feelings toward those who age before us, he will become impatient, and then forget how it was. But he will have my stories. If the voice is sweet enough within those pages, perhaps the words will stay—with him and my grandchildren, with my friends and readers—and I will not leave after all.
The day Beau took me hunting I found my voice crying in the wilderness and I took it home. And when we passed from the mountain, the snow came down, smoothly filling in our tracks so no one ever knew we walked there.