The road was still, silent, untouched all day as the snow came down in heavy flakes, wet and warm, sticking to each fine and naked branch of the aspen like so many delicate works of lace, then sinking into the muddy earth. The last vehicle to pass was once the previous day, now seeming so long ago.
There was little sound beyond our occasional conversation, spare and sparse, using only enough words to confirm what we probably already knew. Beyond our banging around inside a cabin as we undertake an overdue remodel project, protected and warm under roof and between enclosed walls, we begin the demolition. Beyond the whinny of the hungry horses. Beyond the birds: crows and ravens and jays and magpies, sparrows and hawks and falcons, swirling about in crazy storms overhead against the impulsion of the snow. I wonder why they choose to stay so close to the comfort of us and our cabins when the weather bears so harsh.
In the shroud of falling white, I walk along the soundless road, slipping back with each step in the mud hiding beneath the snow. The pallid layer is thin, revealing tracks from the last of the hunters, their horses, their trucks, their trailers, always heading down, down and off and away. The surrounding mountains remain, subtle and muted. The horizon of black and white and so many shades of grey is no longer surprised with the occasional burst of blaze orange. Perhaps the elk have not all fled for the season, but the hunters have.
There is at once a surge of loneliness and relief within and across the land. The stillness overwhelms at first, then settles in and enwraps you with a soft and smooth serenity. One can call out and know there is no one to hear. A blessing, a curse, all the same.