With intention, we set about building an altar on the edge of the clearing. Laura drives a stake directly behind the first footprint, and another behind the second. We draw a string between the two and then run it in a straight line towards the edge of the clearing. In the place where the clearing begins to transition back into unmaintained forest, we begin our work, building within the liminal zone, using unhewn stone, fallen woodstuff, and a piece of moss agate that Riley had chosen from a rock shop. When it is complete, we stand in a circle around it, and each of us carefully press our feet into the earth, so that there is a circle of five prints surrounding it.
We are all in high spirits, and not only because of the footprint discovery, but because it is our first full day out here, and because we are together, and because the weather seems to be a co-conspirator in our adventure. This all seems to dawn on us as we complete the altar. The air is imbued with a newness, like all impurities had been blown away in the night. A few wisps of cloud give the new morning streaks of color, but for the most part it is blue sky as far as we can see. The temperature is cool, but without a bite. In the sunshine, one can sit without sleeves. We lazily slump around the fire, eating breakfast tacos, and drinking the potent coffee from the french press. It smells of damp bark, earth, and woodsmoke. I hug Riley close, but really I want to hold them all, individually and all together, to hold them to me wordlessly, and bask in our togetherness.
We are beyond cell phone service, so the little tyrants have been abandoned, stripped of their allure. We are free. Beyond the reach of bosses, responsibilities, news of death and destruction. In the orbit of only each other. I look across the small morning fire at Laura and José, and think how easily we might have ended up in another configuration: me and Laura, José and Riley, or Barry and Laura, and me and José, or Barry and me and Laura. It seems almost trivial that it had ended up this way. We should, any combination of us, be able to go into a tent together and not come out till morning.
Oh communitas and your swinger energy!
Oh bigfoot, you trickster!
I hug Riley close and forget the rest.
“So what is on the docket today, boss?” Barry asks José.
“Well, we should set up the trail cams. We did bring them, after all. And then I think we should just sort of explore the area. Be on the lookout for any more signs from the big guy.”
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ABOUT THE ARTIST
Jacob Austin co-operates an imaginary bookstore, Yeehaw Books. His published work is collected at jacobottoaustin.com.
Image by Colin Gee, processed on WOMBO