I elect that bull elk in the Snake River.
I elect that raven in Canyonlands National Park.
I elect autumn moonlight on metal roofs.
I elect the strand of barbed wire that fell from the post and is now woven into the tall brown grass.
I elect the tall brown grass.
I elect my neighbors’ cat—the neighbors who are always cursing one another and screaming hateful things—because every morning he sits with me on the fire escape and watches the sunrise without meowing a single word.
I elect the feeling of boots laced tight.
I elect potatoes cooked however.
I elect the valley of my birth and its faded, sagging, leaning, crooked-in-the-best-sense-of-the-word barns.
I elect rain improvising songs on a busted junkyard piano.
I elect the ghost of my grandfather, Dean, because the man never wanted to be anything but a farmer, so says my grandmother, Betty.
I elect my grandmother, Betty, because at ninety-five she takes the long view.
I elect the thump-thump-thump of many wagging tails.
I elect the hungry mouse who stole my snack but did so honestly, out in the open.
I elect that dream my sister once had of a black bear hurtling through our childhood house, breaking through a bathroom window, transforming midair into a timber wolf, climbing higher and higher into the nighttime sky, higher and higher, and higher, and higher, and then falling as a brilliant shooting star.
I elect that dream I once had of a monkey riding a flying goat, a dream in which I understood intuitively, instantly, that a monkey riding a flying goat foretells the healing of all wounds.
I elect the tears on my cheeks when I woke up.
I elect the Kaibab Plateau.
I elect crushed mint.
I elect snowflakes on spiderwebs.
I elect littered napkins folded together by the wind and placed, as if by magic, at the base of a street-corner trash can.
I elect a climb of Precarious Peak that made me, and will forever keep me, humble as a pebble.
I elect our innate mammalian ability to walk one hundred miles, hardly eating, hardly sleeping, at home in the weather, whatever weather.
I elect that which can’t be written in, that which will guide us forward, ever forward, regardless of who lives in some white mansion.
Leath Tonino has been a full-time freelance writer since 2011. This piece is excerpted from his book of essays The West Will Swallow You. He is also the author of The Animal One Thousand Miles Long: Seven Lengths of Vermont and Other Adventures and numerous articles and essays in the Sun, the Progressive, Tricycle, Outside, Orion, Men’s Journal, Sierra, and the Utne Reader. He lives in northern Vermont.