Before going to bed
after a fall of snow
I look out on the field
shining there in the moonlight
so calm, untouched and white
snow silence fills my head
after I leave the window.
Hours later near dawn
when I look down again
the whole landscape has changed
the perfect surface gone
criss-crossed and written on
where the wild creatures ranged
while the moon rose and shone.
Why did my dog not bark?
why did I hear no sound
there on the snow-locked ground
in the tumultuous dark?
How much can come, how much can go
when the December moon is bright
what worlds of play we’ll never know
sleeping away the cold white night
after a fall of snow.
Last night I went for a night hike. The moon is up for more than 10 hours and it is visible most of the time during the night because it is high on the horizon. That is very different from the winter sun, which is only visible for about an hour. So hiking at night is just the thing to do.
I follow our tracks up to Lookout Hill, which are easy to spot in most places. In some areas the wind drift has buried the trail in knee-deep sugar, which makes for tiresome trail breaking. I am casting a sharp shadow on the snow surface. Bundled up in several layers of clothing, wearing a balaclava, and serious winter mittens, double boots and ski poles I feel like a mountaineer attempting Denali.
My ears are covered and I only see a slice of my surroundings prodding uphill. To a degree it’s just the footsteps in front of me that I realize. I will stop in places to take in the winter landscape around me. I am thinking about the wildlife that may observe me. I know the bears are hibernating, but not the wolves or the wolverines… I find tracks of caribou and foxes that walked in our footsteps and left some droppings here and there. Considering that they do not have a warm to shelter to return to, nor a freezer full of food, leaves me with nothing but admiration and humility for the local wildlife.
When I arrive on top of the hill the Ptarmigan Valley opens up in front of me, as I have seen it in broad day light. The sky is dark blue, the mountains sparkle brightly… The only give away are the stars in the sky. Just magic. I lay down in the snow and stare at the sky. No Northern lights, but familiar constellations in unfamiliar locations…