The conventional sentiment wondering where the time went has rung the knell on another Memorial Day picnic. The bachelor uncle is building tall stacks of chicken bones interleaved with grease-stiffened paper plates. A hissing cloud rises from the doused grill. And standing at the dark edge of the woods a hundred yards away a mother calls & calls, peering through dim bars of tree trunks & two or three shafts of evening sun, while some songster in a nearby thicket keeps jangling a full set of silver keys. And Billy & Lynette who were last seen hand-in-hand, she in the lead as always, chattering about owls & turtles they wanted to keep in boxes in their rooms if their moms would let them—they could’ve gone anywhere & why wasn’t somebody watching? Lynette’s mother joins Billy’s to take turns hollering.
But eventually they run out of breath & realize the trees are on all sides now, & neither of them actually remembers entering the forest. Their eyes & feet have adjusted on their own to a place from which their grown-up lives had estranged them.
Now it’s their turn to half-forget what it was they came in for, looking carefully around, gathering the threads of their childhoods on a shared spindle. Until the one speaking slowly says the path’s over that way, isn’t it? I wonder if they’ve gone as far as the old orchard? And her sister, half-ashamed of her growing excitement, says do you remember the stone pile where we found the arrowheads?
At this point a sigh or a smile could mean almost anything, like a sudden rustle in the treetops or the snap of a twig—which could take us back to owls & turtles, or off onto branching paths of speculation, where daytime & nighttime vision, like close cousins from opposite corners of the state, so seldom meet.