I think in another time you were an elf or woodsman, perhaps the one who saved Snow White's life. How lucky I am to have you as my guide through these enchanted winter woods. Look, There are hoof prints. you say, pointing to the trodden ground, broken snow filled with upset mud and emergent, haphazard stalks And there, Droppings. drawing your arm up along the trail, You still quickly and I mimic reverently, your blue eyes and horse-bristle mustache working like a compass needle. I want to run and hug you in that moment but I am afraid of scaring those delicate deer. Hear that? you ask. A crack in the distance. Another crack, then a smack. It's a bull—cleaning the velvet from its antlers. I try to picture that giant, muscular stag standing up to its knees in snow calcified blossom upon his head lowering then raising the rack to thwack against tree trunk splintering gray bark snow dislodging from branches above falling unnoticed upon the deer. Your breath comes out in a white cloud as you grin from ear to ear; your eyes wrinkling in that extremely Irish way and all memories of time between us less beautiful than this evaporate into the winter chill to skate upon some distant ice pond. I grin back and giggle softly and I am twelve again— lost in the wonder of that first hike through our new forest behind the cut ground into which all of your sweat and dreams were tossed then used as mortar, as bricks, as steel. We begin to follow the trail of the deer. Our boots marry snow and mud.

My feet hurt but I say nothing. I would do this forever if I could— follow you through clusters of pine, over bubbling icy streams, relishing the discarded bits of beaver dam, the relics of old hunting perches, the call of the hawk, the glimpse of the woodpecker, the dash of deer. I would follow you through eternity in my three-inch-thick green down jacket and red mittens, scarf wound tightly over my mouth and nose, moist against my breath, red and black striped possum hat pulled snugly over my ears, our thirty-one and sixty-seven years behind us, crusting over with snow.