In winter, there is only bark to see. Between soil and sky are tree trunks. Tree trunks after tree trunks. Dull from afar, more interesting close up. Victor, out for a walk, thinks the trees seem spent. He traces the outline of a heart-and-arrow carving, then, closing his eyes, he finds notches, lacerations, algae and moss. What’s lacking in beauty is made up for by texture, both rough and smooth. Oaks, beeches and poplars. These are the skeletons of the plant world, a gathering of curved spines, a reminder of past abundance fallen to the ground, leaf by leaf. Compost now, decay feeding renewal.
Today, the air smells of snow, the first snow, big flakes. No wind, so there is no movement unless you count the creek that slips past its boulders. Except for the evergreens, nature is in its annual period of suspension. The trees are too cold even to shiver, feeling nostalgic for the songs of the birds that used to nest in their elbows. The sun rises, a red shining dot at first, then it’s smoldering, but the forest has no need for light and heat right now. In contrast, and probably for the first time, Victor cares about sunrises, because he’s heading toward his own hibernation, and opportunities are running out.
A couple of people slide along the path in sneakers past him, pretending to cross-country ski. Others walk by with their overactive dogs on leash. A kid trips on an exposed tree root and doesn’t cry. Above everything is a layer of protective branches, inanimate for now, but back in action come April. At least it’s snowing, not raining. Rain in December is way too sad. He leans against a tree trunk, a bent birch, to catch his breath. He too misses the birds, but the insects more, especially the grasshoppers.