We take a lesser use trail today through riverine woods until the road noise dies away and there is only silence. I hear a faint swishing sound and am surprised to find it is made by my jacket rubbing against itself when I move. When Aki and I stop so does all sound. Usually the river can be counted on for a gurgle but our recent cold snap locked it down. The wind storm that buffeted Downtown doesn’t bend and shake trees so snow finds its own path to the forest floor. Even the birds roost quietly out of sight.
Profound silence is rare in this rain forest but it always blesses tundra on windless winter days if you stay off the main snow machine trails between villages. At another time of my life I’d drive a small team of sled dogs up the ice over twisting streams where no noise could reach. Then the the sound of their panting seemed deafening. Today Aki and stand completely still as I strain to hear if falling snow makes a sound striking the ground. It’s a foolish test that my ears fail. Aki’s canine hearing might pick it up but she won’t say.
We must sound like a circus train moving up the trail for we see signs of animals that had dashed to cover just before we reach their location. We step over the freshly laid tracks of a snowshoe hare we scared away from a dinner of young willow. On the return trip I find where a deer hid in thicker woods for us to pass on the way up the trail. Later I puzzle over a 2 inch wide path trodden by tiny feet across the trail and then disappears into a snow bank. (A small bird or rodent?).
When the trail takes us onto a muskeg meadow I hear what sounds like a jet engine and remember the wind and how the waves it drives onto a nearby beach during storm time can mimic a jet taking off. Leaving the protective forest we see and feel the effects of a north wind flying down Lynn Canal. There is the sound, now more clearly that made by storm driven breakers and there is the beauty of storm light on green seas toped with creamy foam. There is also the cold that we both feel. In minutes we turn around and head toward the car.