away from home

(smiling robin art by Brooke Stevens)

Left my family for a bit—probably just a day. Drive from Alpena, Michigan to Columbus, OH for a meeting. Along the way, a big mud turtle is saved as it scrapes across M33. It isn’t thankful at all as it is placed in the swampy ditch. Just sits there under that beautiful, beaten shell. Waiting to be left alone.

There are several close calls on the trip. Cars cut me off and stop suddenly in my path. For miles, I follow a semi pulling a trailer full of cows. They moo and wail and stuff their noses out the slots in the trailer walls. Sniffing and fearing. Coming to grips with their lot in life. Soon, they’ll be steaks, burgers, a bit of stir fry digesting in our bellies. Giving us that comfortable feeling of satisfaction when finally, our appetite’s been met. Not sure if it was the blistering heat, the fear, or sickness, but there was shit. Lots of it. Liquid green running out the back. I was happy I filled my washer solvent reservoir.

There’s a lot we don’t see.

I saw a grackle killing baby robins not long ago. It was evening time. I’d just gone out to relax on the front porch with a glass of wine. Wanted to sit and breathe a little. Watch the sky and listen to the neighborhood wind down. But as I stepped out the door and gave the nest the once over like I had on days before, I saw the act. The big black bird peck, peck, pecking. The babies confused and dying. Their stretched necks and open beaks not met by mom or dad with bugs or worms, but met by that big black something that’s out there waiting for every one. Every creature. Each one of us.

Even babies left alone in a nest.

Cows on the hot highway.

A turtle crossing the road.

And even a man. Away from home, just for a bit. Or maybe longer.

~ K.J.

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