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The cottonwoods release the last of their burnt-yellow leaves and the mapgies, in piebald coats, flash shocking white breasts against the monochromatic landscape of waning fall, white from weeks of rain washing every single inch of animal, vegetable, mineral within one hundred miles of the Tetons.

The fair weather part-timers thin out, too, like leaves, blown off to other, often warmer places; places where you don’t need to rely on one another as you do here, facing the expanse and solemnity of November, of winter, a solidarity against the elements that brings people together and puts the little things in perspective.

Life here becomes peaceful again. Normal.

We are five weeks deep into homeschool routine, and the writing is on the wall--or in our case, the pavement. I smooth out obscure Latin words on the macadam, egg-shaped chalk balls dissolving with each curve of vowel, sketch hopscotch courts to drill skip-counting, the nervous system, principle verb parts.

A moose wanders by. And then another.

The cow lets out a somber grunt, a mating call of sorts that sounds none-too-optimistic. The bull responds with pursuit, a thrashing of willows with his antlers, resolving his testosterone-induced agitation while he readies himself for the task.

I watched bull moose once, in Alaska, a circle of creatures, peeing on the ground, on themselves, rolling in their own urine baths to scent their coats with the musky stank of mating. The ritual seemed nonsensical, comedic--those little bulls were competing only against one another, no females in sight.

The victor, already established, was out in the deeper thicket, hovering over his mate, bedded down, the great hulk of Denali at his back.





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