There’s something special about going cross-country skiing at night. Leaving your warm, comfortable house, getting away from the TV, putting on your skis, turning your headlamp, and going trekking off into the cold dark woods.
It’s almost a little frightening, going off into the bush by yourself at night (What the hell am I doing?) But it’s also kind of exhilarating.
Besides, I know the trails well enough by now not to get lost. At the very worst, if something happens, I might have to spend an uncomfortable night, before another skier discovers me the next morning. After all, I’m just outside town. It’s a calculated risk I’m willing to take.
But tonight, I have the whole place to myself. There’s only one other car at the trailhead. Only one other fanatic, who shares my stupidity passion for the outdoors. I probably won’t even see them.
As I forge on through the forest, the only sounds are the swishing of my skis, and the chunk! chunk! chunk! of my pole plants. My whole universe is the 50-foot beam of light in front of me.
The trees appear ahead, glide by silstently, and disappear into the darkness. It’s a steady rhythm, as I gobble up distance, and go deeper and deeper into the woods.
Chunk! Chunk! Chunk! The further I go, the further the day’s stress gets behind me. All the bullshit, project deadlines, office politics, household chores..it all falls away from me.
The forest is quiet this time of year. It’s so different. Everything is dead and sleeping. No bugs. No birds. No frogs. No yammering, chattering squirrels.
But I’m not alone. The carpet of snow is littered with critter tracks. Foxes. Deer. Maybe the odd wolf, even.
Suddenly my reverie is interupted. There’s a flash of brown ahead, and it momentarily scares the Be-Jesus out of me. Then I realize it’s just a rabbit.
Wabbit twacks, I tell myself. Haw-haw-haw.
I now reach my favorite point in the trail. The section by the river, the furthest away from the trailhead. The opposite shore has nothing. No houses, roads, towns, nothing, for 30 kilometers in either direction.
Around me are century-old white pine that the loggers somehow missed, mast-straight, towering majestically overhead like quiet sentinels. I turn my headlamp off, and just listen.
I remember the game my Mom taught us a game when we were kids. She’d tell us to be quiet, and ask us how many different sounds could we identify.
Right now, two. The occasional (barely audible) hum of cars on the highway, a few miles away. And the tree next to me is cracking.
But in-between, for long intervals, there is silence. No wind. No movement. Nothing.
It’s so quiet, it’s deafening. My ears are almost ringing.
It’s The Silence.
And I empty my mind, and let The Silence enter my head, into every pore of my body, into the depths of my very soul.
This is what I came for. To hear The Silence.
Forget inspirational quotes, self-help videos, or webinars. Forget Life Coaching, Zen habits, religion, church, whatever…
This is what it’s all about for me…getting in touch with nature, and listening to The Silence.
Some people get this. Some don’t.
I pity those who don’t.
I stand there for a few minutes, soaking it in. Because that’s all you really need, actually.
Satisfied, I turn on my lamp, and head back.
Chunk! Chunk! Chunk!
30 minutes later, I’m back at the trailhead, drenched in sweat, hungry and tired.
But at least my batteries have been re-charged. For at least the next few days.
Back to reality, back to streetlights, electricity, heated homes, Twitter, and TV.
Sigh. Till next time.
Meanwhile, I wonder who Simon will yell at tonight on American Idol?