This photo from my most recent trip to Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, over the Xmas- New Year. The note below was penned one beautiful evening last winter, by candlelight in a tiny cabin in the Alaska. There’s nothing quite like the silence and the cold of the boreal forest in an Alaskan winter.
The Paradox of Silence and the Cold
Silence is the aural equivalent of stillness. Both appear related to time, or at least our perception of it. Winter in the north seems to be abundant in both. The northern winter, often so harsh and unrelenting, is also the time when the place becomes still and silent.
Sometimes it feels so still, so beautifully still, that I am sure time must have paused. Time, perhaps, rests, fatigued after the frenzied bustle of summer and the frantic world of countless reproductions eases. The textbooks tell me that such is not possible, but maybe, just maybe, they’re wrong. I remain unconvinced. Time just may well pause here in the north.
How can they say time doesn’t stand still? Surely even the slightest of movements would be apparent in this world of calm and yet there is none. Nothing moves here, why time? The air, so still. A fresh layer of snow muting even the slightest of sounds, mutes even movement. The sun, ever low on the horizon, hangs, and it too pauses, before continuing its journey to the next of days.
The depth to this stillness is the exclusive domain of winter – no other season holds time quite like this – not a breath, a whisper, a thought to break the silence. The air is too brittle, so thin it’s almost fragile.
The cold, so lifelike at times; a sinewy, shy, elusive fellow, comes in the night to greet me in the morning. His welcome is my solace – without it, who alone could tolerate this stark, silent vastness? The cold becomes my friend, I can accept him or resist him; the latter is clearly a path toward my discontent. Rather, like a lover, the cold is best embraced, accepted, and loved. Without my shivers for company, what solace could the cold know?
Like an old friend, I open the door when he knocks, for I know his approach well, as he, in turn, anticipates, my opening the door. A greeting, the cold, I embrace, you bring me warmth.