Between Our Steps: The Sound of Winter
The dog and I leave prints bigger than our feet as if some larger version of us walked this land.
A misty grey morning. Not a breath of wind. Not a sound from the creatures who live here. It’s December, but the ground is bare of snow. The only ground cover a blanket of rust-coloured leaves. On this day that threatens rain, the birds are hunkered down in the shelter of cedar and spruce.
Walking down the road, I expect to hear the click of the dog’s nails, but it is so quiet, I can also hear the slap of my soft-soled boots on the road. A squirrel disturbs some leaves and then is gone. We walk, but all else is still.
Another grey morning. Today, it is falling snow over the bay, not mist that hides the point north of Balaclava and the lights of the Meaford Training Centre. The air is equally quiet. No wind here by the shore. We are protected when it blows from the west by the escarpment that rises above us. The soft snow sits heavy on tree branches, covering everything with a layer of white.
On this day, the dog’s feet do not make a sound as he walks. The potential click of his nails is absorbed by the layer of snow by the side of the road. My footfalls are also silent. We do not make a sound until we greet people clearing snow from their driveways and the two young men looking for their lost dog, gone since yesterday afternoon.
On this day, there are bird sounds, however. The chickadees think it is a worthy day to sing about. Sparrows and nuthatches are telling stories. Startled by the dog’s passing, three grouse noisily rise from the ground, moving deeper into the underbrush.
It is winter though, and the gulls, raucous the rest of the year, are silent. One glides along the shoreline, wings not moving. If I were not looking, I would not know of its passing. We will not hear their voices again until spring comes, a fact that took me completely by surprise my first winter by the shore.
The eagle is always silent here. It, too, glides along the edge of the bay on wings that seem immobile, yet the elegant bird moves steadily toward a destination only it knows. If I am watching, I will see it again tomorrow. Another glance out the window and I catch a silent raven also soaring smoothly northward. Its croak, however, I expect to hear before long.
The January thaw arrives, and the birds' silence seems to object to the shift in temperature. I wonder if they preferred the steady cold of the previous week. The only sound is the steady drip of melting snow from the rooftop. I hope it melts enough to uncover the solar panels.
With a bit of wind and warmth, the trees lose the snow that piled onto their branches during the relentless snow the previous week. I see the physical evidence of that snow falling from the trees: small snow craters on the ground. I wonder if they made a sound as they hit.
Feet squelch through the water-laden snow-pack on the ground. The dog and I leave prints bigger than our feet as if some larger version of us walked this land.
A further change in weather. Wind whistles in my ears, pushes trees against each other making an irregular drumming of taps and scrapes. And as waves roll and break against the shore, a constant roar fills the air. There is no silence, will be no silence, until the wind retreats again, and the waves slow to a steady rolling rhythm.
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