Nighttime Revery

20 Jan

It is the dead of winter and the moon is waxing gibbous. Not a cloud that I can see. On nights such as this, it is good to walk, so I set out onto the trails to the west in search of nothing. I needed the emptiness, and my dog needed her dose of the primordial. I began cautiously, allowing my eyes to adjust to the nighttime until the moon’s reflection on the snow appeared bright, like part of some ancient dawn. A bit of timeless chill worked into me for a moment. And like the beginning of any walk, my mind was focused on the wonder of what was to come. After several dozen steps through the snow, I stopped to collect the intelligence of the night. And my dog, like her owner, paused for reconnaissance – hers of the olfactory variety. To our flanks were sparse trees and deeper forest beyond. Ahead, open meadows of luminous snowdrift interspersed with fallen trees lit our path forward.

Where will this take me? Why walk in the night in the heart of winter? Because, my heart says, it is where you need to be. The days are full of chatter and quickness, and your mind is tired. The falling snow is softer and slower, and the warmth you find will come in due time as you walk your way into emptiness.

There is no one here. I look up to the sky and a single bright cloud is drifting its way east. I stop and listen. There is nothing more silent, more settled than the insulated night of snow and woods. Even the sounds we do hear, though clear and real, are somehow dampened, like in a small, padded room. Somewhere below these mountains is a city; I can see the glow on the lone cloud that found the eastern horizon. I feel safe here because even death out here would be more secure than the heightened state of the world below. And…there is no one here. So we continue up an open hill toward the woods.

Several minutes later I am breathing deeply.  And I am warm. We come to an overlook where the river valley below yields to forested slopes and then a winter tundra above. One last look, and then down the other side of the hill.  We find ourselves in a broad, wooded basin. I sense something different in these lowlands, and I stop again to listen. My dog is a good scout; she stops with me and puts her nose in the air. Her ears perk, and she freezes, pinning her eyes on something through the woods. All my senses are engaged, and I am ready to protect her from whatever is out there.

But I couldn’t see it. At least not for a few seconds. I worked hard with my eyes, squeezing them shut and then opening them again – a trick I learned to pass military vision tests. Finally, movement. My mind then worked to finish the puzzle, and an image of an enormous moose came into focus. There, in the snowy woods, she looked toward us, her head turning as slowly as my vision became clear. What she was thinking, I can’t know. What I was thinking, I can know. “I am the only human experiencing this moment, this particular moment.” And I am no one, just a figure in the emptiness looking at some other being.

The world was quiet, but in some subconscious nostalgia for survival, I was ready to defend my dog with my life.  The moment, lucid and serene despite my heartbeat, turned into minutes.  In those silent minutes, where all tension of primal minds and bodies stood ready, something gave way. As in, I got out of the way of these matters. And then, like Rumi’s love with God, my body and mind were clear and bright and part of the crisp emptiness. After letting the expansion move through me, we continued on stealthily through the night, my senses more open than before. I had a settled and restful feeling – the kind of feeling that comes after making long and beautiful love. Only, if that is the case, I had just made love with the divine.
some death

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