She says death follows me, but I’m not so sure. I think death is just another state of being and if you’re lucky enough to be tuned in you learn to reach out to it as it reaches for you. There is a connection, of course. Sometimes clear. Sometimes not. And it is the most difficult experience in the world to convey to others, especially when so many are so rooted in the concrete. The tangible. The daily distractions and disbelief. But what I’ve learned is that the disbelief of others matters very little when you connect the living to the dead. There are very few experiences that are as gratifying.
It wasn’t always like this. It started three years ago and it started out small. With strange, perspective-shifting moments—like walking in the woods with my wife and finding a bag of dogs.
It was morel season and the kids were at the in-laws, so we decided to get a fifth of Jacob’s Ghost and a couple bottles of Coke from Male’s Corner and drive the backroads. We were only about ten minutes into the trip when I got the overwhelming sensation to stop on the side of Graham Road. I parked the 4Runner on the clearest spot I could find, we took a few hits off the bottle, then moved into the woods to hunt morels. It wasn’t long though and I felt like I was being pulled by giant magnets to an area of high ground where the jack pines got big and my ears were ringing and my guts all roiling with warmth.
“You’re walking pretty fast for finding mushrooms,” she said.
But she knew by now, with the way I was moving so quickly through the trees, that this was the plan all along. That somehow, on our first weekend alone in months, I would find a dark place in the peaceful woods that needed me. And that I would stand there, eyes closed, hearing muffled yelps as a slim bearded man pounded their small heads with a hammer then dropped their bodies into a black plastic bag—some of them still moving and making sounds, struggling between here and there—as the man buried them.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Shit,” I said. “I’m sorry. This was supposed to be just fun.”
I looked up through the trees at the big blue sky one last time then dropped to my knees and began to dig with my hands.
“They’re here,” I said. “Don’t be sad.”