The first place I looked was where the spring rounded the grove of oaks and began to widen into a creek shadowed by sycamores. The moss grew thick on the bare spots of earth where the sun only reached in winter speckles between branches. It spread across the rocks—outcropped on the edges of the creek and sunk into the bank sloping up to a path the deer and raccoon spent their lives making.
In the shallows between the mossy rocks, tadpoles circled one another, waiting for growth. He was drawn to that activity, that small dark swirl of something so young it had barely made a mark in the world He would take a net with him, and sometimes a bucket, sometimes nothing but a belief in how the wind would show him the way his legs needed to go.
But he wasn’t there. I tried the meadow behind the engorged stand of cedar trees on the west side of the creek. I tried the deepest part of the forest where an ancient elm had fallen over and its body become a home for creatures that populated time. I trudged the dirt trail in the middle of the grassy path the cows had made around the valley. I walked the whole path, my shoes accumulating the dust that blind hooves swirled before me. I didn’t find him anywhere.
I didn’t know him anymore.