The birds were singing as they were known to do at that time of the morning. The late season meant that they would do this for an ever-decreasing span of time until finally the chill of the morning merged with the chill of dusk and they would not sing at all for weeks and months.
When we unpiled from the van in the birds were singing though. A quick yell from Neal and they were temporarily silenced. The crack of a beer can and Neal was temporarily silenced.
Most of the other people smart enough to be in the woods this time of year were hunters of birds and deer. And the six of us. Me Neal Honey Lily Charlie Ernie Lucy Alice. And Bill, yellow lab. All writhing and reacting in a solid mass of us.
The long ride out to the land had been drunken and hungover. Coffee beer and tea. The sky was blue and silver this day, though we would find that in the low spots some ragged gray remnants of the damp dawn remained.
Standing in the almost empty parking lot I lit a pipe of an exotic sort and rallied the legion. Friends, I declared, let’s set off.
With a ceremonial intoxicating puff on my pipe for each, we did so. There was dissent and disagreement from the outset, regarding the destination, the path to be followed, the speed of travel, the rationing of supplies, leadership and followership, and sundry other topics. The arguments were engaged with spirit and culminated in nothing of consequence.
As I had been the person most recently at the literal wheel, all the troop soon deferred to my decisions and fell in.
With a high glacial ridge to our left, a vast marsh to our right, and the trail rolling around subtle curves, we strode and stomped and stumbled. Some surged ahead while others fell behind. Those ahead were driven by further curiosities and conclusions they knew were ahead, while those others were distracted by objects of investigation to the side of the trail and beneath their feet.
I walked mostly with Neal and Honey at first. Neal held court on some personal ambitions, ardently seeking our advice, reactions, shock, envy and support. Honey eventually took the reins and piloted us on a journey of her own.
Ah but there you see, Honey, there is what I’m talking about, Neal interrupted the lady.
Just shut up a minute. What I’m saying is thatâ€”
No, no, I agree with you is what I’m saying. I agree with you. I think what you’re talking about is part of what I’m talking about or what I’m talking about is part of what you’re talking about but either way what I’m saying is: everything that’s wrong right now is because we’re always doing the easy thing.
Well that’s not what I’m saying.
Yes it is! It’s this whole problem of the path of least resistance. Most people are going to walk downhill and not evenâ€”this is the sad partâ€”because they pick that trail but because that’s just the way they walk.
But I’m talking about Jason and Julie here.
Well yeah, I think you’re saying neither of them even seem to like each other anymore and nobody sees them any more because they don’t enjoy being with each other and being with other people just makes it worse.
And what I’m trying to tell you is that it’s all because it’s the easy thing for them to do. It’s easier to stay together than it is to break up.
I think that can be true but I don’t know if it is with them.
I think it’s the case here. It’s easier to be with someone than alone, isn’t it?
It’s better, I don’t know if it’s easier.
I’m telling you, it’s easier.