A Cold Winter Night

February 15th, 2017

The cold has returned to our land for a short spell.   A crisp northern air which bites at your nose and makes your cheeks tingle.  In the stillness of the night when all the creatures of the day have returned to their nests I don my cross country skies and venture out.  My path is laminated by the half moon hanging high above, it grows brighter and bigger each night as it wanes toward the full Wolf Moon, when the haunting call of the Wolf reminds us of the pressing hunger our wild neighbors endure in the deep of winter.   In places where a thick layer of ice coats the top of the snow the moon reflects off it as if casting light upon the open waters of some ancient sea.  I ski down Haucke Lane under the branches of the conifers lining the northern border of our driveway.  At the end of the lane I veer south
and dip into the valley, into the darkness of a lonely woods.  I’m engulfed by the trees, these sentient beings who tell their stories not with words but with creeks and groans, whispers of wind through bare branches.  Snaps and claps as the cold bores deep into their flesh making them brittle, rigid.  This is the part of the journey I long for, but in some ways, fear the most.  I feel vulnerable amoungst these giants, sounds have a strange way of bouncing, behind me I hear a swishing.  I am being followed by something I cease all movement to get a better listen, but whatever is behind me stops as well and so I move on, and so returns the noise.  Again I stop and so to the sound.  Only after doing this several more times does it dawn on my ice encrusted
brain where the whoosh comes from, me of course, or maybe my shadow.  It is my other self, the scared child looking over his shoulder for that hungry wolf.  So I pause here a moment longer, laugh inside at my silly self and then resume my journey, now back out of the forest to the top of the ridge down a long field road which follows the crest of the hill back towards the warmth of the old farmhouse.  As I approach home the cold light of the moon is supplanted by the warm electric glow of civilization streaming through a frosted window.  I smell the sweet aroma of cherry wood smoke from the stove and am greeted by the tender faithful love of a fat and happy dog.  The fragrance of a hearty dinner and the allure of a good book under deep covers await as I settle in on a cold Wisconsin winter night.

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