The western sky bled out the remainder of the sunset and we lay cheek to cheek in the dewy lawn, our feet pointing to noon and six. As the sky grew dim, the stars faded into life and their juxtaposition against the orange haze gave the illusion of an old photograph, speckled white as if a grainy film. The barn was just up the hill and we knew we’d walk there later but not just yet. A bard owl spoke to us from across the field. Stark silhouettes of the naked autumn trees on the horizon.

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As I walked home from the library, the soft scuffle of gravel underfoot went crshhh, crshhh, crshhh. At the next corner, a man shuffling up the sidewalk with a slight limp, favoring his right side, layered on shhhhhhh–tck, shhhhhhh–tck. The wind overhead, seeping and flowing through the grid of buildings, fffoooooooooshhhh, a soft ethereal melody underneath the beat. A howling child accompanied by mom passed by across the street, ahhheeeeeeeyeeaaaa, a backing vocal.

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Stopping on Haight Street for food and coffee walks down to Hippie Hill. Wandering through Memorial Grove and look, people using ketamine. To the pond and chatting with ducks. “The bat dove for my pebble!” Card games and drinks at home and there’s big band playing. Junky snacks and passing it around. The Mystery Team solves the case.

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Pedal, pedal, pedal, burrito as reward. Beers and guacamole. Pedal again, this time home. Clean, clean, clean, go out again. Cheap beer and invaluable friends. Dancing barefoot in the living room and everybody knows the words. Walking downhill to home, a new friend tells jokes. They go for pizza, you go to your bed. The nine hours after work can bring love and entertainment and satisfaction.

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In 2008 I slept at Hornet Lookout in Montana. This quaint cabin perched atop Hornet Mountain, a decommissioned U.S. Forest Service fire tower, is one of hundreds like it around the United States. I flew to Idaho with my dad where we joined with a college buddy of his, Dick, and the three of us drove east. The approach to Hornet Mountain is long: hours of flat, dusty dirt roads through untouched, old-growth forest. The true backwoods of the United States. I distinctly recall laughing out loud at a particular road sign we came upon, buried deep in the woods and the first in what seemed like days, that pointed out the distance to the Canadian border.

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