At this point my bones are starting to feel the effects of the winter wind that blows through the pines and hits the side of my face, the pain motivating me all the more to get the fire going.

I take the old ax that leans against the shed’s pine siding, aline it with the piece of oak on the stump, and raise it above my head. The log splits in two as shards of wood fall to the ground below. My heart pounds, warming my body against the cold wind still cutting through my old railroad jacket. 

When I have enough wood to last me the night I go inside, letting the screen door slam behind me. I make my way to the fireplace, trying not to stumble as I find my way through the darkness, and sigh in relief that the hard part is done. I throw the logs into the fireplace along with some shredded newspaper I keep sitting in a box not far from the mantel, strike a match from my matchbox, and watch the sparks fly. The match illuminates the corner of the room showcasing the taxidermy trophies and old photographs that cover the walls. I bury the match and the newspaper ignites, then the wood as the fire strengthens. 

Smoke escapes up the chimney and the entire bottom floor of the house feels a little different. I sink down into the old recliner and kick my boots off in the process as the light spreads across the floor and bounces off the walls, revealing the old fly rods in a constant state of rest and the old kitchen stove that ushered in so many meals. Exhaustion overcomes me as I watch the fire dance and burn its way through the logs. Unable to keep my eyes open any longer, I fall asleep. 

When I awake the house is dark again, the cold creeping in. I head upstairs to the bedroom Alice decorated in muted pinks many years ago. In the coolness of night, the fatigue takes me again, and soon I fall asleep with the memories of the past still burning bright in my mind. 

It’s early December as I walk along a familiar path. Cold approaches as the sun sinks down behind the pines. The clear blues of day slowly transcend into the pinks and purples these North Alabama skies are known so well for; trust me, I have seen a lot in my life. As I approach the top of the hill where the old shoot house sits just on the edge of the big field, my mind wanders; I reminisce on all the kills I made from that old house, lowering the plexiglass window, trying not to let the whitetail hear me as they graze beneath the persimmon tree. The chill of the wind soon draws me back to reality, and I realize it’s almost dark. I pull a flashlight from the back pocket of my Levis and head back to the house to find warmth and comfort in the old stone fireplace. 

I make my way back down the path, thinking about how this land has shaped me, the time spent here that I now consider sacred. This land, these memories, they only come more alive with the cooler weather, like an old friend who always tells the best stories, bringing the past back to life. These woods have given so much to me over the years—I’d be lying if I told you there aren’t days I wish this was my permanent home, but that’s what makes these times more valuable. I’m always comforted by the solidarity I find in the woods; it always has a way of pushing past the monotony that comes with life in the city. I tend to retreat within myself when I’m among the pines. Every part of this place reminds me of the pieces of myself I leave here, from building the house and plowing the fields and keeping the old bush hog running, to the long dirt roads that

constantly compete for my attention and keeping them clear to allow lucky visitors to pass without problem. In my racing mind I somehow find a standing truth: this place is just as much a part of me as my own physical body. 

I’m back at the house before I know it. It’s cold and alone, consumed in darkness and longing for someone to breath life back into it, so I walk around to the woodshed at the back.

At this point my bones are starting to feel the effects of the winter wind that blows through the pines and hits the side of my face, the pain motivating me all the more to get the fire going.

I take the old ax that leans against the shed’s pine siding, aline it with the piece of oak on the stump, and raise it above my head. The log splits in two as shards of wood fall to the ground below. My heart pounds, warming my body against the cold wind still cutting through my old railroad jacket. 

When I have enough wood to last me the night I go inside, letting the screen door slam behind me. I make my way to the fireplace, trying not to stumble as I find my way through the darkness, and sigh in relief that the hard part is done. I throw the logs into the fireplace along with some shredded newspaper I keep sitting in a box not far from the mantel, strike a match from my matchbox, and watch the sparks fly. The match illuminates the corner of the room showcasing the taxidermy trophies and old photographs that cover the walls. I bury the match and the newspaper ignites, then the wood as the fire strengthens. 

Smoke escapes up the chimney and the entire bottom floor of the house feels a little different. I sink down into the old recliner and kick my boots off in the process as the light spreads across the floor and bounces off the walls, revealing the old fly rods in a constant state of rest and the old kitchen stove that ushered in so many meals. Exhaustion overcomes me as I watch the fire dance and burn its way through the logs. Unable to keep my eyes open any longer, I fall asleep. 

When I awake the house is dark again, the cold creeping in. I head upstairs to the bedroom Alice decorated in muted pinks many years ago. In the coolness of night, the fatigue takes me again, and soon I fall asleep with the memories of the past still burning bright in my mind.