I love how the snow illuminates the ground in winter. Whether there's a moon out or not, nighttime just doesn't feel so dark with a layer of white on it. It draws me out for one more walk before I crawl into bed - one more chance to smell the cold and be part of the deep silence of the blanketed landscape.
When it's completely dark out and Lily has been under the impression that her day was done, she is so jazzed to see me grab my down parka off the hook, slip on my boots, hat, headlamp, and gloves and open the door. She wiggles her little butt and prances in the snow, looking back over her shoulder with her doggie smile and happy eyes. For Lily, there's just nothing like a night walk...
I always grab my bearspray - not for the bears who are sleeping during the winter cold, but for the cougars. And I tie a thick scarf around my neck figuring that if a cougar were to jump me from behind the way they do when making a kill, the thick scarf might keep its teeth from reaching my spinal cord. I take a ski pole too, to beat a cat off, but then again, that's all probably naive. If a cougar really wanted to eat me, it would have no trouble. Life's a crapshoot at best, so I walk into the night.
The scents left by passing animals slow Lily's pace and I pause while she investigates. This walk isn't just for me and besides, I like to keep her near me not only for my own sake, but for hers. She is only 34 pounds - bite-sized.
We follow the road, walking past neighbors who have already turned in for the night. An occasional porch light shines on the branches above us and casts a cone of white on the snowy road, a reading light glows through a window, but no one stirs. It is just Lily and me.
Years ago, when I used to live on my homestead, just shy of a mile up a trail, I did a lot of night walking. It was built in - the only way from here to there - the way we wanted our reality to be - so I miss it. After a day in town, my daughter and I used to park the car at the trailhead, load ourselves up with groceries and school books and such, strap on snowshoes then tromp through the night to our cabin. Loaded up it took us twenty-five minutes. As tired as we might have been or as bent out of shape as our daily interactions with the world may have made us, we inevitably slipped back into the calmness of the forest reality. Step by step my daughter and I reunited with the peaceful rhythm that we humans in developed countries have so effectively whittled away from our lives.
By having to hike in we intentionally inserted nature's frequency into every hour of our day so we wouldn't forget or get cut off from it. I don't really understand why we humans are inclined to separate ourselves from the rich and invigorating energy emanating off this planet, but we have a penchant for it - we build buildings and ride in cars, we watch TV and wear earbuds that stream constant sound into our brains in order to block out the world we have created. I don't do the TV or earbud thing but I no longer live up a trail and if I'm not paying attention, I can easily let the comfort of a warm house, hot running water, and electricity insulate me from the world of wind and snow and darkness.
I guess that's why I keep reconciling myself with my fear of the cougar. Night walking stretches me just past my comfort threshold and opens me up to something beautiful.