I met a kindred spirit, I think, the other day; we stood together in the snow with his dog safely stowed in his truck.
I went out as I sometimes do in the darkness of early dawn. I go to the river though it is really a creek. I don’t know why someone at some point called it a river. I brought my camera because the temperatures were not predicted to get above 25 and the past three days had been as cold. I was hoping for ice. No luck. So I roamed the stream valley, not looking, not searching, just enjoying the biting cold. What better way to know that you are a warm, living body?
I paused at all of my usual spots. By the small sandbar under the hornbeam tree, at the mountain laurel tunnel, by the boulder that juts out into the water. There was nothing special about this morning. My coffee was good. The solitude delicious. The silence, delirious.
I come to the woods at these times-the bitter cold of a winter’s dawn, the driving rain in spring, the middle of the day in summer-partly because I hope that no one will be here to interrupt. . These conditions make one feel alive! How easy it is to be out when it is warm and sunny. How very hard to be here with people, what with all of the trampling and noise! What is it with the need to play music in the woods? Would one do so during a church service? We should no more interrupt the wind than we should the organ.
One cannot study the bluebells so low to the ground when prying eyes trespass on these private moments. What is he doing, kneeling in the dirt?
I slowly returned to the trail as much from lingering injury as from a strong desire to stay within the mountain laurel arbor.
The predicted snow arrived and painted the scene as I walked up hill, past the old farm pond, toward the meadow. I saw him walking his dog; he left the trail to give me wide berth. What rare courtesy! To acknowledge and to receive solitude on such a morning that would be blasphemed by idle chatter. He raised his hand in acknowledgement and we shared a brief blessing of gratitude for the snow and its blanketing peace.
I finished my stroll, going the long way around the meadow, returning to my car with no little reluctance. I stood at the end of the trail, gazing out, capturing the scene as it would be a week or more until I could return.
He walked by, commanding his dog into obedience.
Sighing, knowing that I had much to do at home, I turned to leave.
As we cleared our vehicles of snow, we struck up a conversation about the beauty of the place. After shared exclamations of the meadow’s silence and solitude on such winter mornings, we began to share other places that were dear to us, exclaiming when there was a mutual joy and questioning more when we heard a new place to explore.
As the geese flew silently overhead, heading for the pond across the street, we, as unhurried as they appeared to be, found ourselves sharing the birds sighted at our favorite wooded places. Scarlet Tanager! Osprey! Baltimore Oriole!
Our conversation ended, neither feeling the need to interrupt the shared beauty of that place and the places before and after with our own names or with any other formalities. We wished each other a good day, meaning it.