We awake to a cold, clean silence, a remembrance that if silence could have a color, it would be white crystals of snow drifting their serene journey to the earth. This pristine white, this cold, clean silence was our first snowfall on the thirty-five acres my wife and I now own, and we celebrated the morning with a walk cradled in quiet contemplation of the beauty surrounding us. The trees were draped with snow which accumulated and fell in feathery clumps--one down my neck, providing an early-morning wake-up! Our footprints painted the canvas of the snow as side by side Sandy and I walked the familiar yet newly-created trails across ridges and down hills to the bottom land.
Ours were the only tracks on the land, the animals we shared the land with bedded down. No squirrels chattered at us, hiding behind the gray, shaggy bark of hickory trees. No ground hogs lumbered across the gravel to the safety of brush across the drive. We had evidence in our Airstream Basecamp travel trailer that a mouse had moved in, and Sandy, while sipping her morning tea, had even seen the little critter moving around behind a smoked plastic cabinet door in the kitchen area. It was a quiet morning, though, and would be a quiet day, the insulating blanket of snow absorbing and muffling sound until it slowly melted as the morning advanced to afternoon.
That evening we sat outside beside our campfire, enjoying the crackling of the fire that accentuated the silence of the evening. It was then that we shared a moment on the land with a creature other than ourselves--and that wild citizen of the woods turned out to be a spotted white and gray domestic cat, some neighbor's pet ranging wide and making its way to us. We called to the cat but it would not approach, staying tucked safely and half-hidden at the base of a tree about thirty yards away. Sandy stood and approached the cat, calling reassuringly, but the cat, although curious, was also cautious and slid away into the darkness. Perhaps it will be more trusting with its next visit.
Wilderness writers have described the "cathedral of the forest," the forest as a place to awaken the spirit or to enliven the spirit on the level of the senses. The bare limbs of trees or the umber of oak still retaining fall's russet splendor; all the shades of autumn's fallen leaves that carpet the forest floor; the rich smell of the moist earth; the sharp, cold breath of wind as it whispers across the crowns of the trees; the swaying of limbs and the hollow, sodden sound of clumps of snow falling from sun-warmed branches--to be a part of this morning, this first snowfall--to be a part of this world rather than a stranger who intrudes--this means all the world to me. It puts me in my place, where I feel at home, reassured by the continuity and continual rebirth of existence. There is no ending that there is a beginning, no heartbeat without the silence between. The unique beauty of a snowflake drifts the silent sky and falls upon a tree branch. I see that beauty, a frozen moment in time, and become it. The world is still, the sun shines, and for a timeless moment I am wondrously at ease, fulfilled to simply be.