Untouched snow

  • Staff Illustration/Andy Castillo

  • Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

Staff Writer
Published: 3/29/2020 6:00:14 AM

There’s not much I like more than a path covered by untouched snow. For it’s there, in a few fleeting moments, that I get to go where no one has ever gone before. My feet alone break the silence. Only my thoughts envelop the space.

As life as we know it has slowed, I’ve taken up running. Outside my back steps and across the yard, there’s an idyllic trail loop that feeds my soul and motivates me to move. Typically, I pass a handful of neighbors outside enjoying the sunshine. At the height of last week’s spring snowstorm, however, our shuttered world was even more devoid of life than it has been of late.I more or less had the trail to myself.

Headphones in, I ran head-down into the snow for the first mile or so listening to (ironically) a podcast about unplugging from a plugged-in world. While I don’t despise running, it doesn’t come naturally. For the last several years I’ve been weight training and the transition to running so far has been a bit of an enjoyable challenge. 

I was stuck in my own thoughts until a dainty line of tracks in the snow crossing my path gave me pause. Two deer, one after the other, had recently passed by. The tracks were fresh and the deer were probably still nearby. If I had been paying attention, perhaps I would have seen them.

That realization pulled me from my distraction and I, suddenly, noticed beauty surrounding me: A pond, still covered by a paper-thin sheet of ice over parts of its surface, caught snowflakes, turning white into black. Towering over the water, red-black pine trees rose from the snow like giant blades of glass.

The world was covered in stillness, and I, the lone traveler, made crunches through the solitude. It was is a late snow and the birds were confused. A few trilled from the branches. Others soar overhead.

In the trees, sound was absorbed. Bits of snow clung to the rough bark of Shagbark hickory trees, their rough bark like the shingles of a witches house. Pine boughs dipped beneath the weight of fresh snow. Hail mixed with the snow, piercing down like tiny bullets. Ahead, a crooked tree stretched toward a break in the canopy. Had it grown straight up, it would not have survived, as it was in the shadow of much larger trees. In surviving, its branches became bent, scraggly and tough — resilient.

When this snowy season and the oppressive weight of social anxiety has passed, the pine trees will rebound, as will we.

Meanwhile, solitude is not something to escape. It’s something to embrace.

Perhaps in this season of isolation, we might all contemplate visions that are grander than technology. Perhaps we can evolve our thinking to become bigger than the constraints of society — bigger than what’s been before, in order to embrace a grander reality — of that of the untouched snow.

Andy Castillo is the features writer for the Greenfield Recorder. He holds a master’s degree in creative nonfiction from Bay Path University and can be reached at acastillo@recorder.com.

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