Photo & Story by Matthew Knoblauch

My 5-year-old son has begun a habit of confronting me with questions I can’t seem to answer. They are relatively simple questions, depending on who you ask, but ask me, and I’ll have a bit of trouble.

One night, I was sitting at the kitchen table and heard a voice yell from the living room.

“Dad, what’s your favorite color?!”
I yelled back.
“Yellow!”
“What’s your favorite animal?”
I yelled again.
“A trout!”
Days later, as I walked through the house, I heard that voice reaching for me from another room.
“Hey, Dad. What’s your favorite color?”
“Yellow,” I said somewhat hesitantly.
“What’s your favorite animal?”
This time it was different.
“A Ruffed Grouse,” I said.
One day, several weeks later, I decided I had enough as he started with his color question ritual.
“Why do you keep asking me these questions?” I started being loud with the dishes as I put them away.
“I just want to know.” He would say.
“You already know.”
“Well, what’s your favorite color then?”
“I don’t know. It’s blue.”
“What about your favorite animal?”
I threw my hand in the air as I turned towards him.
“I don’t know! I have no idea!”

He was silent after that, unaffected though, and I continued putting the dishes away.

I thought throughout the next several days over the matter. These were simple questions for a while, but I couldn’t help but wonder why I was so annoyed over them. I didn’t know the answers to my son’s questions, and I couldn’t help but think that I should. It was as if someone had asked me what my favorite pet was or which child I liked the most. There can’t, nor should be, a definite answer.

I pondered with a friend—old forester and a dash of bitters, in the moonlight hours of my office, looking for conclusive answers to my child’s honest questions, and here is what I discovered.

I like red when it streaks through the sky at dusk or the red of an apple hanging in an autumn tree.
I like the warm pink glow cast in my backyard in the morning as the sun creeps over the hills.
I like the electric blue that hides behind black clouds in a summer storm, and I surely like black, too. I like it peppered with stars and moonlight, and I can lay on my back in tall grass and watch the world spin.
I like when the goldenrods are frosted silver and white in November, and the dogwoods make like wind chimes from a coat of silvery ice.
I find a likeness in the yellow dandelions of a spring field and tamaracks burning yellow along an October swamp.
I love the orange on the bellies of my beloved Adirondack Brook Trout.
And the greens, every shade of it, that dominate all the forests and woodlands I frequent so much.
Or the crimson and gold in the leaves of an autumn season, to name just a few.

I pour my final drink of the night under midnight clouds. Another dash or two of bitters as the dog slips into another dream beneath my feet, and my thoughts continue.

I like white-tailed deer when they let me spy secretly on them as they pick from the hazel bush.
I like the rainbow trout that hold in the pockets and pools of the creek just outside my front door.
I like the dainty mayflies that ride the ripples and currents and flutter softly among such streams, too.
I enjoy the Muskrat in his home along the riverbanks, and I like to watch it scurry between large cuts of stone like a maze.
I like the curiosity and uncertainty big game animals bring me, like the Moose, Black Bear, Caribou, and Elk.
I like the thought of a mysterious Panther roaming gallant and fearless somewhere in a deep forest or perched like a statue on an outcrop of rock.
I like to watch the tuffs on the Titmouse blow softly in gusts of wind among my feeders, and I like the squirrels that raise havoc in my yard. They gorge themselves on the suet that hangs for the Woodpeckers and Juncos, but I like to watch them turn from the Lilacs and poke at it anyways.
I like the Pileated Woodpecker that comes to make music on the big Norway Maple in my yard. I know these seldom visits aren’t good for our tree; however, he owns it just as much as I do.
And I have an affair with Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock. I care for them deeply, so much that I pay money into conservation in their name.

The night crept on, and my weary eyes got heavy. I sat silently, half asleep, smirking in a state of contentment. I looked down at the last swig of bourbon in my glass and raised it to my lips. The dog raised his head without moving his body from the carpet and looked at me, silently asking if we were ready for a real bed yet. I stared one last time out of the window and into the moonlit sky, now breaking with clouds. The same moonlight that shines through my son’s window just up the stairs in our house, lighting his room as he dreams peacefully in a snug bed–dreams filled with the secrecy of knowing the innocent teachings he has bestowed upon his old man.