We all have secret habits. Mine was a habit with a purpose.
For several years I stopped my SmartCar by the roadside to gather recently perished beings into my arms, bring the beings home, and do whatever was necessary to pass their contributions on to others.
“My Roadkill Habit” is the title of a recent essay, a national finalist in the 2016 Creative Nonfiction Contest held by the journal Hunger Mountain and judged by Robert Michael Pyle.
They come to me in repose, limbs splayed. Bodies still warm. They come in the moments before crossing over; the anima in their eyes transmuting from luminescence to abstraction to absence. There is just enough time to pull over, find the tobacco, lift the creature and singsong a prayer.
Fox, deer, flicker. Woodpecker, squirrel, owl, snake. Gold-tipped fur, softly shimmering scales. Feathers of soul-piercing intensity, beauty beyond measure.
When my habit attracted the attentions of a Yoeme healer, he piled my arms with enough tobacco to sprinkle, and enough sage bundles to burn, for years of roadside finds.
“Don’t be so stingy,” he said in half-jest, intuiting my technique. “No more of those small pinches of tobacco: fill up your entire hand. Be generous with your gifts.”