The woods were unusually void of tracks today. The coating of ice from Sunday’s storm still covered the few inches of snow on the ground, and it seemed as if only one or two deer had been willing to crash through it since. The only other signs of movement were from the tiny paws of critters light enough to scurry across without breaking the film. I did catch the scent of a skunk and was happy I’d not run into him.
Trudging on, I soon reached a familiar spot. There, level ground suddenly dropped off toward the creek below, at an angle that faced the sun.
The moment I arrived, I thought the rate of falling sleet that had been tapping on my hood thus far had more than doubled. I took a half step back. The increase stopped. Forward, it began again.
What I’d heard was the sound of the sleet hitting the exposed leaf liter below the ridgeline. Like one thousand tiny hands clapping, it was dramatically different than where it had been silently landing on the snow-covered level ground. Because of the angle of the hill, I could not hear anything fewer than 18 inches away. I felt like a boater approaching an unsuspected waterfall and rocked back and forth to entertain myself with sound phenomena.
As I walked across the leaves I also realized that the noise was making me anxious. Like the soundtrack in a horror flick, it shifted my attention toward the danger. “Turn back; it’s a storm,” the music seemed to say. Even though I knew there was no difference between what fell on the snow and what fell on the leaves, I was calmer and less hurried in the quiet of the snow.