Snow is a harsh editor, bringing out the most dramatic details and burying the rest. This black gum sapling grows less than ten feet from a trail, but I’d never focused on it before: an antelope in mid-leap, looking back over its shoulder.
From almost nothing in the depths of the hollow, the snow grew thicker on leaves and branches as I climbed the side of the ridge. A hundred yards beyond the “antelope,” I surprised a doe that had been bedded down under white mounds of mountain laurel. For once, her tail matched the color of the woods, and it was the grayish-brown of her winter coat that flashed alarm.
(Best viewed at larger size)
What begins as erasure, a laudable minimalism, becomes positively rococo as every last detail is freighted with a burden of white space.
Witch-hazel blossoms are capable of self-pollination when cold prevents the late moths, flies, and beetles from visiting. Is it possible that an early snow like this could also do the trick, if it were to soften and slide down a branch just so, from one flower to another? Well, probably not. But I like the idea of snow as a matchmaker, for some reason.
Going back along the ridgetop, I relished the silence and the fact that, for once, I didn’t break it just by walking: the fallen leaves were as muffled as those still clinging to the trees. From time to time a leaf-sized clump of snow would plummet to the ground, making a leaf-shaped print, like a promissory note.