Half a kilometer down the road is an on-going as we speak turkey convention. Now that I take the kids to school, I drive by it four times a day. By afternoon, half the participants have left for happy hour, but in the morning, I can count on fifteen or more of them milling around on convention business.
The convention takes place in a graveyard. The main hall in the convention centre is actually the gravesite of a six year old girl. Years ago, her grandparents made it into a little shrine and they keep it in pristine condition still. There are toys, a bench, a bird feeder. At night, there are soft lights. The path to the grave is always clear, even in winter. There is no sign that the turkeys find this an odd place for a convention. Quite the opposite. They love the free food, sprinkled liberally across the ground.
I pass the graveyard on my walks to the woods too. For a while there were raccoons who came. They would scamper up the trees as I walked by, then come down again when I was past. Countless deer stop by in a week, but most of the time they seem to have booked the centre for different hours. One day I saw the turkey convention with three deer standing right in the middle. I was too far off to see if they wore name tags, but it seemed to be working for everyone concerned.
I can’t quite explain why the turkey convention has caught my fancy this winter. Is it seeing so much life in the midst of death or is it just the turkeys? Turkeys are fun to watch. The way their heads move on the end of those long necks when they’re looking around makes me want to try it. I can’t get enough of the way they tip toe off in such a flutter of not subtle when they see me coming, all in a line, bustling like church ladies off into the trees, so proud of themselves for being so canny.
Most everything good and bad that’s gotten stuck in my craw these past few weeks has eventually made it to the part of my brain that remembers the turkeys. Exhausted. Excited. Discouraged. Incensed. Triumphant. I picture myself a turkey. Just one of the girls in a grand convention of turkeys. Oblivious to the miracle of life in the midst of death, but deadly serious about the way we stand, the order in the line, and who eats what when and how.
It is hunting season around here. My neighbour always kindly reminds me, or I might forget. Forgetting wasn’t a possibility the other day. It was so loud that I looked out the kitchen window to see if there was a confused hunter out shooting our sheep. Whether it was target practice or boredom, the dog and I stuck to the roads for our walk.
The kids and I call the woods that I usually walk through, “The Magic Forest.” It’s pure Narnia. Especially in winter. Kids who are ambivalent about walks in general, almost always accept invitations to the Magic Forest. Hunting season is short, but I miss my magic trees. Gravel, pavement, telephone poles, and plastic food wrappers (reminding me that living in the country does make the one immune to self-indulgent stupidity) are just not the same, even without the cars.
The only magic on the roads is when I happen on some of the creatures passing by. Skunks, deer, racoons, rabbits, a family of foxes, wild turkey. I always slow down to look. One night a porcupine stopped to look back so we had a conversation in the dark until he finally ambled off.
I think my favourites are the turtles. Every year in May or June, there is a week when the turtles line the gravel on the sides of the road like vacation destinations. A road just around the corner from us seems to be prime real estate. At dusk, huge snapping turtles dig nests in the gravel and lay their eggs. I always want to explain that the benefits of warm blacktop can’t possibly outweigh the danger of cars. I never see the babies, only mothers in the spring. But despite the fatalities, they keep showing up to lay eggs, so something must be working.
On my unmagic walk, I tried to convince the dog that removing the burr from her tail would make her more attractive. We have been having this discussion for about three weeks now. Turns out she doesn’t care what she looks like. Every time she paused to sniff something, I would give a futile attempt to grab at that burr with my fingers. Bent over trying to grab the burr in motion, my eyes caught sight of a hole. For a second I thought some moron had buried their white plastic garbage in the gravel, but logic prevailed and I took a closer look.
On the side of a most un-enchanted and ordinary road, magic. Turtle eggs. Already hatched. No baby turtles, but I dug out five or six dusty white broken shells and took them home to show the kids. In the dance down here between miracles and madness, mark one for the miracles.