Up north in Michigan, the sugar maples are blaze orange. So are the hats on the dashboards of everyone’s pickups. Harvest time. Further south, towards the state line, the land flattens and most of the forest’s cleared. There, clouds of red-wings, starlings, and grackles ripple over fields—black, like the diesel belches blasting out the stacks of the trucks receiving beans and corn.
It’s sometimes easiest to just drive, to let the hypnosis of the road set in. I’ve been hungry for at least a couple hours when I force myself off the paved road to fix dinner. It’s hard to pick the rhythms of solo travel back up when they’ve been set aside for a time: more than a month has passed since my last night alone on the road—Moshannon State Forest, Pennsylvania. I pass a nuclear plant, railroad tracks, a bunch of teenagers getting high under the trestle. I’m on the Indiana side of the Wabash, where the sun is fixing to sink into floodplain forest. “Wabash” means “water over white stones.” The riverbed is limestone, but in 2021, you can’t see it anymore. The water, wronged by the way we now harvest, is a suspension of mud and silt.
Cardinals and yellow-rumps give vespers, wood ducks squeal; dinner is quinoa, a pouch of curry, a tin of sardines: putting the road back on. The barred owls begin to tune up. The right place for me to overnight has not been revealed—but several wrong places have; where I’m at is one of them. The night is beginning to twinkle. Stars are coming out above the clearings, and poachers’ spotlights probe around the margins. Harvest time. I harvest stories, I guess. The crop is abundant—germination occurs everywhere. It’s the putting them up for use in future seasons that gets a complicated. It’s dark enough, now, that I can hear the Wabash’s channel more easily that I can see it. I’ve been off the road long enough that I, too, feel silted up.