Monday, November 16, 2009

The Snow

Shelly, my friend, sat on a massively tall red-brick wall. It was the very top of a building, only a couple of feet from the flat roof of the rectangular apartment complex. She sat on the ledge, her thick white legs were bright in the midnight light. A small breeze played with the edges of her thin silky white slip. She was relaxed there on the edge. Her hands were behind her and she relaxed into their support as she would with a comfortable chair. One of her feet was on the ledge, the knee of the same leg very close to her face. The other foot hung over the ledge. She looked like a rock star, confident and defiant, teasing the night. I could tell she was not okay. It looked like she had lived through many years of extensive drug abuse, and now, she sat relaxed, ready to die on the edge of that building.

I awoke. I was still.

The dream lingered. It was one of the many unusually strong ones that had come upon me in the week that I had been here in the mountains. Six other girls in bunk beds slept around me in the small wooden cabin. There was a girl above me now, dreaming her dreams. The cabin was dark and my fingers groped for the small headlamp that I had placed beside the bed’s legs before I closed my eyes. I had been with these women for a week. A full week of meditation and silence, there was still one more to go.

With the headlamp in my hand, I crawled out of the sleeping bag like a caterpillar breaking free of its cocoon. Only there were no orange and black wings, just a sleepy girl in baggy long johns and an oversized sweater. I walked to the door and stepped out as quietly as I could, but in the nearly silent mountain night, even a falling snowflake makes itself known.

And it was a sound I heard which moved like muted echoes. All around me, soft drifts of white snowflakes fell delicately. The ground and stairs were covered already with a thin coating, and I walked with a smile down the rough outlines of a path to the large cement dormitory a few hundred feet in front of me. The world was dark. The thick woods to my right were dark, the paths that led to the meditation hall were black. There were no lights, nothing to provide my city paranoia with security, but I let the initial habits of panic wash over and through me. The night felt safe. The stillness was safe. Different, much different than I was used to, but I could step into it. The falling snowflakes added a new element. A touch of the extraordinary, a light whisper of magic dancing on my eyelashes. It was all worth noticing, every leaf, every quietly waiting bough, but the snow brought an energy I was not used to. A duality of parallel lines, calm and still, yet filled with constant movement. They glittered somehow, without the moon, without street lamps, somehow they gave enough light that I could walk through them without the aid of my headlamp. I walked casually, letting them melt on my warm neck and in the folds of my clothes.

I entered the dormitory and used the bathrooms there, then I walked back into the snow drifts, back to the wooden stairs of my cabin, clunkily taking off my boots and moving the other shoes beneath the cover of the eaves. Then I crawled back into the silky red cocoon, ready to see what other tales the subconscious would spin for me.

When I woke the following morning and stepped onto the steps to retrieve my cold boots, the land was covered in snow at least a foot deep. So much had fallen in just a few hours. There had not been wall-shaking wind or rattling, it had just come down hard, intent on its descent. The buried path to the meditation hall was now white and invisible, I made my own way, delighted in the footprints I left behind. The snow brought with it a silence so complete. I could hear small out-weighed chunks of snow topple off tree branches and land with a thud on the already blanketed ground. It wasn’t just quiet, it was like the mountains themselves chose to whisper. It was like the woods nodded with a small wink and began to move just a little slower. There were people around me, others walking quietly to the large square building that awaited with pillows and warm walls. But despite the presence of humans, the mountains opened with its ways. Movements usually hidden among chatter and cars and noise and quick movement. A careful deer emerged from the white-wooden thicket and walked timidly to the bushes. With the whiteness, time slowed. There were no human sounds of laughter, nothing to disrupt the absolute serene stillness of trees, branches, grass, rocks, everything buried in snow. I walked the paths softly, silently filled with the sounds of snow and the simple process of a thaw.

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