(January 2006. Photo by Robin)
“Antisthenes says that in a certain faraway land the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they are uttered, and after some time then thaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard until the next summer.” — Plutarch, Moralia
Early morning in Quail Hollow. The LovelyMan and I are hiking along the woodlands path, following it up the hill and then down into the hollow where it connects with the peat bog pathway and boardwalk. The woods are still, frozen in quiet on this wintry morning. The only sound is that of our footsteps crunching on the frozen leaves which cover the path.
Our words don’t freeze, but our breaths do, crystalizing as we exhale. My nose feels frozen from the inside out and my cheeks are numb. I’m thankful for the layers of clothing I put on, starting with the thermal undergarments, because other than my extremities, I’m pretty toasty. The hiking keeps me warm, too.
We reach the boardwalk and I see that things aren’t as still and quiet as I’d thought. There are raccoon prints everywhere on the boardwalk, going in all directions. The prints are still wet, standing out on the frosty wood of the boardwalk. Raccoons are nocturnal animals. This one must have been late in going to bed for the day, perhaps dousing (as raccoons will do) one last snack before settling in to sleep.
I look, hoping to catch a glimpse of the masked and dexterous creature. It is said that masks are powerful and magical tools, and that the curious raccoon is a master of disguise and transformation.
I wonder what power and magic the raccoon brought to these woods on this frosty morn. We follow in the footsteps of the raccoon, walking along the boardwalk until we are led back into the mystery of the woods.