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The field
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I stalk grief like a hunter tracking a wild animal. I cross the long frozen lake, following the traces, a mark in the snow, the scent — a soft and salty fragrance– on the air. I trust the ice will hold me as I cross and there she is a white fox, blending into the shining fields of snow drifts. Is it her I see or just the wind blowing the swirling sheets of snow over the fields. I look again and she is gone.

I follow grief from the high mountains down to the shore, following familiar paths, drawn by the weight of gravity. I find her on the shore. She is a beached whale, waiting, for me perhaps, or for the ocean to take her back. She looks at me with dark and knowing eyes that cast a spell of grace over everything that has come before and will be. She is large and unmoved. Her very weight glues her to the spot. She has surrendered to this spot, on the beach, where the ocean has spat her out, where she once swam unseen in depths beyond where my body can go. Now, she rests here, baking on the sand. I shout for help, pacing up and down the beach, but no one comes. I try to push her back into the water but she is a whale, and I am a human. Her eyes turn questioning and are so gentle, I am calmed. I am too small to move her back to the water. Nor does she ask me to do so.I lay down next to her and rest. Her skin is soft and wet. I fall asleep. I wake suddenly, soaked in shallow water, lapping around me, drenching my denim pants and cotton blouse. She is gone. When the tide was rising, she wiggled back into the waves, and I am left in the shallow water.

I tracked grief through mountains, where she wanders as a coyote. She plays tricks on me, watching me in the night, eating the meager provisions I have packed. I hear her howl at dawn and dusk and it is like the symphony of wild voices. I cannot make out a single voice but together, they tell me that something untamed is near, just past the edges of the roads at the end of town. I follow them and they lead me to the place where the bones are piled, the bones of rabbit, deer, and bobcat. The bones are a warning. They are hungry and forced into smaller territories. I see their eyes in the night, the low cast of the gleaning through the branches, and hear their request — to hold their wild spaces and honor the force of their howl.

I followed grief for miles until my legs trembled and ached from exhaustion. I walked through grassy fields, across sandy deserts, and through stony mountains. I walked through cities, past the glass windows of office parks, over cement streets and alleyways. I followed her over parched farm fields, over places towns razed to the ground by wildfire, over acres of radiated land, past towns covered by a thousand feet of water of a hydroelectric dam, past where cows were packed in feedlots and the thick sludge of manure was poisoning the water, past where the factories had dumped chemicals and cancer had spread in the breasts of women whose children drank the poison milk.

I kept walking past it all, my eyes filled with tears. Grief unspooled a thread over the trembling ground and I kept one hand on it and shuffled along. Then, it was night, and beyond the din of the electric light, I couldn’t see my hand in front of me. There was too much, in too many directions. I was too tired to follow the thread any farther. I lay on the ground there, not knowing what was in front or behind me. The thread ended in a dark field. There was nothing left to do but sleep.

They returned in a dream– the fox, the whale, the coyote, the poisoned land-body. I woke panicked, for there would never be enough time to hear them all, to tell the stories of each who passing into their own extinction could not speak in human tongue. I had to speak for them before they each were gone. When I opened my eyes, I saw a sky covered in stars and grief was there, scattered and cast out like diamonds, through an endless field, each shining speaking a silent wordless song.

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