Road | Waterville, WA | 2017

A man I hardly knew picked me up at 5 a.m. to go cut a Christmas tree. In the freezing dark, we drove into the mountains in a rattletrap four-wheel-drive pickup truck. The back was filled with fresh-cut firewood, so he’d lashed his chainsaw and two shovels to the hood. I’d met him the night before at a bar down the street, and he’d drunkenly insisted that I — new to the Northwest — have a real deep-forest experience. “Don’t think I’ve ever been up this road,” he mumbled, maybe still a bit drunk. “But it’s too damn dark to know.” On hairpin curves, we’d slide in snow to the road’s edge, and he’d go, “Wheee!” I had my hand on the door latch, ready to jump if we slipped into the abyss. “Sometimes you don’t know where a road’s gonna take you,” he laughed, then skidded to a stop. “But I’ll be damned, here we are.” He shined his flashlight across a small grove of perfect wild Christmas trees. “Pick one,” he said. “And put on those gloves. You’re gettin’ a lesson on how to run a chainsaw.”