This breath hangs in the still cold air like a bird hovering in an air current before finally fading out into the patches of falling snow.
And I breathe in.
I breathe in calmness, and a warmth, despite the frost on the air. I breathe in the songs of the crows, and the songs of the trees. Their stories fill the forest like story time when we were in 2nd grade.
To many, there is only silence. The occasional wind-whipping through the pines. But to me, a tale older than any of us is unwinding, with all the vividity of any poet or campfire teller.
It says, “Come listen to my story.”
And so I walk on, snow shoes digging into the deep snow. The forest is already surrounding, and the mountains loom above, though today, the snow clouds are low, and the mountains can freely hide behind their curtain.
The powdery snow reaches up to my knees. No one has been here yet, since the last snowfall. I am breaking ground, blazing a trail into the forest. The tracks of a coyote dash out from behind a near tree, and cross my path, disappearing behind the brush on my left. The scene still playing like a ghost. It is a playful moment for the canine, mouth open in a near-smile, looking for a good time, and perhaps a chizzler. So it heads into the brush, it’s fluffy tail healthy and tinted with a rusty orange flare.
I can almost hear him yip in the distance.
All of the air has stilled now. Too cold for even the wind to be out.
But the mountains are peeking through the clouds, as though the clouds were a tattered old pair of blue jeans.
The sun is even spreading through the cracks in the sky. It throws shadows in every direction, and spots the air with colour.
“Reminds me of a day many years ago,” says a near pine. “The river froze early that year. Bison still wintered by here. Their snorting was a kindly lullaby. We would all close our eyes and just sway to the rhythm.”
The pine stretched into the sky, poking through a cloud. Its branches were full and green, even under the fuzzy sweater of snow.
A swan flew by out of the corner of my eye.
Another deep breath. My feet began rising and falling again, and soon I could see the bend in the river.
It was not frozen though. True, the sides of the river were frozen, but a good-sized channel dashed through. It roared softly as it passed.
A duck of some sort swam lightly by the opposite bank. It didn’t look cold, but I would have traded places.
The mountains were now mostly in view. The river came from that direction. There was a large field between us. In the summer, it would be full or bright yellow flowers and Indian paintbrush. And sagebrush. And the more than occasional grizzly bear.
But right now, 10 feet of snow lay of all of that.
The nearest pine extended its limbs and with a generous embrace, whispered, “Welcome home.”