The forest is full of snowflakes. Those giant ones that fall steadily as though in slow motion but really moving too fast to follow just one, a stark speck against the treetops, from the moment your eye lands on it until it hits the ground. White clouds overhead, white clouds at my feet, and in between, against the black of the woods, the mass of trees melded in to one dark shape, a pouring down of white. It is beautiful.
But in its beauty, on this day, it is heart wrenching. The snow covers everything. It fills in the large tracks of my snowshoes as fast as I can make them; it changes well-worn deer thoroughfares into long, muted troughs running away between the trees. It obliterates any tracks I might stumble upon and follow over the quiet landscape that will lead me to the lost dog. That little dog we have been looking for for days.
I trudge the tracks once foreign to me, now so familiar, mentally marking the trees I had never passed before that I now recognize as landmarks, and I call his name, and I wait, and I watch the snow tumble down in its perfection. A snow I would welcome any other time, a snow that falls as though the sky itself has been torn open and poured out and would normally make a dark winter day so very perfect, but today it is deflating.
There is a steady pick of merry snowflakes banded together into circling clumps as they hit the hood of my jacket and break apart, they flick coldly against my face, melting quickly, they gather on my eyelashes so I have to blink them away. On my mittens the muted sparkle of perfect crystal formations, their feathery arms reaching out in six distinct directions. I want to enjoy it but instead I look to the sky, will it to stop.
The snow falls and falls. The world is silent, nothing moves, the trees watch, and I make tracks that disappear behind me as though I was never there. It is a beautiful day, this perfect snow day, but it is disappointing and despairing. It feels empty even as it fills up.
When I get home I hug my dogs, capturing their wiggling bodies as they frantically sniff my snow pants, my jacket, my boots, to see where I have been, what adventure I have again taken without them. “This is why you don’t run away,” I tell them, kiss the tops of their heads, hug them hard. “It breaks hearts.”