“Something catches my peripheral vision and I turn toward the window. I feel my eyes widen in surprise: snowflakes! A great crowd of snowflakes floating down, a deep thicket of slowly tumbling white. How long has this been going on? I stand and stare for a few moments, then pull on a sweater and step out the door into a landscape transformed as if by a spell. My steps make no sound, the white blanket already plush upon the ground and layered in tufts upon the juniper and pinyon branches, as flakes drift down like loosened stars. A hundred of them swerve into my face, melting cold against my skin as I walk slowly through a world utterly transfigured by this silent grace cascading through every part of the space around me.
The surge and press of the week’s worries have somehow vanished. When I try to call those concerns back to mind I simply cannot find them behind the teeming multitude of slowly falling flakes… Past and future have dissolved, and I’m held in the white eternity of a moment so astonishing it melts all my words. All weight has lifted; the innumerable downward trajectories have convinced my senses that I’m floating, or rather rising slowly upward, and the ground itself rising beneath me -- the Earth and I ascending weightless through space.
A sound: the flutter of a bird’s wings, and a small explosion of snow from a branch the bird launched from. Then, just silence. Not silence as an absence of sound, but as a fullness. As the very sound ten thousand snowflakes make as they meet the ground. A thick silence, muffling the whole valley, and for all I know the whole cosmos. I cannot imagine that any bird, any squirrel, any coyote or hare is not similarly held in the visible trance of this cascading silence.”
-- David Abram, “The Air Aware”, from Orion Magazine, September/October 2009
* * * * *
There’s no telling how long it will last, but as you know, we got a beautiful blanket of new snow last Thursday which enabled us to go snowshoeing on Saturday.
There’s something truly special about visiting the Great Outdoors in fresh snow, which utterly transforms the mountain forests into an almost otherworldly realm.
At no time is the natural world quieter or more serene, with only an occasional chirp of a bird or a whisper of wind through pine, spruce, or hemlock needles.
As you may know, snowshoes make it possible to hike through the deepest snow without sinking in too much. Last week’s storm dropped a lovely new layer of it.
As usual, most participants were in pretty high spirits on Saturday -- not at all surprising, since snowshoeing isn’t exactly compatible with negative feelings.
We snowshoed in Harriman State Park, where there were 8-10 inches of snow on the ground, on average, although it had drifted much deeper in some places. Out of our group of 9, 7 of us wore snowshoes and the others did our 7-8 mile hike in spikes.
Our Sunday snowshoeing trip unfortunately had to be cancelled due to a mountain forecast for freezing rain, ice, and snow, which would have made travel dangerous.
Saturday was the first time this year when we had enough snow for snowshoeing. Hopefully there will be more opportunities ahead, which remains to be seen.
It’s still too early to know about next weekend. There could be significant melting this week, so we may be resuming regular hiking next Saturday & Sunday. Assume for now that we will.
But if it turns out that we’re able to go snowshoeing again next weekend -- or any other weekend -- I’ll be announcing it in another weekday e-mail, like last week.
-- Charlie Cook