Before the Age of Twelve
Mapped the surrounding terrain, Oakey Mountain to Stamp Knob, a system of criss-
crossing trails: turkey and deer traces, pig ruts, footpaths of the Scots-Irish, the Cherokee.
Collected and catalogued an extensive menagerie of specimens: rocks, minerals, insects,
the sloughed skins and bleached bones/shells of various birds and reptiles.
Studied the bark and leaf structure of the pignut hickory, the pines and a dozen species
of oak, contemplated the force of energy generated by the germination of a single acorn.
Recorded the oral histories of my kin, the telling sparked by the glint of quartz points
and clay shards turned up by my father’s plow, plied the art of planting by the signs.
Learned how to candle an egg, cradle a chick, stroke a sleepy briar, listen to the news
bees, find wild ginseng and yellow root, let the Eastern Indigo snake pass unharmed.
All the subsequent years I have spent trying to recall what I knew: the taste of wild
honeysuckle, the necessity of meandering A to B, how to read the phases of the moon.
Originally published by Turtle Island Quarterly