This past week — as threatened last week — I stole a fine nap on a bed of shed pine needles. There are those who would say I was letting my guard down, and of course I was. What greater privilege could there be in this dangerous world than to not only lower your guard but abandon it to the open sky. Per the neighbor’s game cameras, there are many bears in my sleep zone, but by this time of year they too are napping, so I felt good about my chances, waking-up-wise. I was deer hunting, so it could be argued that a snooze rendered me insubordinate in my duties as an apex predator but I’ve never been top-flight in that role anyway.

The thing was, I had been out and about since pre-dawn. At noon, I returned to the house and had perhaps a bit too much for lunch. Then, after walking way out back I hunkered down under a young thick-boughed white pine, beneath which was laid the burnt orange carpet. It happened at this moment that the afternoon sun was cutting through the atmosphere in a way that toasted my face even as the air I breathed remained icy. It is good to breathe cold air when you are warm. I stretched out on my back then, if only to aid digestion. The land was at an incline of such that my feet were just a touch lower than my head, and in short order I was asleep.

When I awoke I felt deeply refreshed, the way we do when the brain cycles solidly through the necessary reset but has not shut down to the point of sluggishness. People smarter than I can explain the electro-cellular specifics, but I know it when I feel it. I didn’t move right away, rather stayed flat, staring through gaps in the white pine branches to the gray sky above, re-tuning myself to my surroundings by simply listening. Second thing I heard after the wind was wild turkeys calling yelp and purr — the language of keeping in touch. I eased my head up slowly and there they were, arranged along the edge of the ice-skimmed pond 40 yards downhill. They were pecking at the ice, punching little holes from which they dipped water. I watched them for a long time. At one point there were a full dozen in view.

After the last of them slipped quietly into the weeds and brown brush, I raised myself to a sitting position and resumed my predator role. It was easy work, as nothing much happened. I just sat until the sun went down and I heard the turkeys go branch-smashingly to their roosts. Roosting turkeys have all the natural subtlety of airborne weed-whackers. By the time I got home it was good and dark. I closed up the chicken coop and fed the cats. When I stepped into the kitchen I was surprised to see it was just 5 p.m. It seemed so much later. The rest of the family was away on a trip (they like to free me up for my apex predator duties), so I ate dinner alone. I had all intentions of getting some work done then, but the long open-air day had taken its lovely toll, and I retired early. My last conscious thought was of the pine tree overhead, and turkeys, and bears, and soon all of us asleep.

An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio”(tentshowradio.com). Read more from Michael Perry at www.sneezingcow.com.

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