Streams of sunshine were starting to trickle into the woodlot, the warm, bright currents growing stronger with each passing minute.
Some of these splashes of light poured onto the woodlot's floorboard while others rode the morning waves to overtake the forest's darkest backwaters.
It was - as are every sun-drenched mornings in May - the time for turkeys to stir, collect their thoughts, and talk to each other. Some birds simply are attempting to tune into another bird's location. Others are out to shout to one, all, and the morning sun, that they are not to be trifled with.
These last turkeys are the toms, or gobblers, that are the point of attraction for several ten thousand of Ohio hunters. Myself included.
Only this particular morning (yesterday, for the record) held special significance, important meaning.
Some 18 hours earlier I had been told I had cancer. To be exact, prostate cancer. To what degree I will find out later this week. As well as having the heavy burden of deciding how best to save my life by which treatment venue to use.
I know all about the upbeat statistics. Ever since the first whiff of the possibility of prostate cancer fell out of my all-ready cluttered cabinet of physical ills I've been on the Internet trail of the disease, looking for data, visually scrounging for pointers and options.
Of course the odds are in my favor, I keep telling myself, and which others also opine in the positive. After all, I exercised due diligence in getting tested each year since I turned 50. That includes having blood drawn for the PSA test which is intended to root out any markers of a cancer-invaded prostate.
Even so, we are talking about cancer here. And while the attending doctors have all spoken in carefully manicured terms about early detection and all that, they have never, ever, have included the word "promise."
Nor can they. As often as not cancer is a stealth intruder that does its murderous deed when the host may very well not be looking.
My hopeful saving grace was that I faithfully stood my post for the past 12 years.
And all of these things washed over me as I watched the woodlot arise out of the darkness and then the awakening life as both joined to capture the flag, which they won't relinquish until nightfall.
So I observed and listened. Maybe with a tint more attention but certainly with more appreciation.
The hens were putting softly but yelped with greater intensity. Their object was to overrule the tempting coaxing that Tommy Oehlenschlager and I applied with our calls.
It was not that gobblers lacked interest. To the contrary. We'd call and from one to possibly five gobblers would respond. They wanted to check out our lusty pleadings but the hens kept their consorts in check.
All of the birds dropped their anchors, moared behind a large block of shrubs and trees; way too thick to see through.
Tommy and I played Battleship with the unseen turkeys for the better part of an hour. A bit of desperation was in order. The conclusion of Ohio's spring turkey-hunting season was only one day ahead. And I hadn't killed a turkey in something like three spring seasons.
Nor would I this season, either.
Shrugging off the stiffness in the legs and in the back I did my best to climb into a standing position. It was some work given that the body is tempered by age.
The birds had gone quietly into the woodlot's recesses, never having turned the corner on the shielding green-stained encumbrance.
By now the tide of light had very nearly reached its apogee inside the forest. Wonderfully, peaceful and seemingly at rest even with its life force coming on line, the woodlot was both a tonic and a temptress.
I was glad to have been both an observer and a participant to the woodlot's night-to-day ritual this morning, just one of countless others I now so desperately desire to enjoy with even greater intensity.
So I wept. Loud enough for Tommy to hear me and pleadingly enough for him to say "You will. They caught it early."
I prayerfully request so. Perhaps these woods need my company as much as I do theirs.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn