Near Mècle, France – February 8, 2017
Flecks of ice hit my face, some bouncing away, some melting aganst my skin. The ground begins to boil with them. I throw my pack down and pull out layers of rain gear. Sheets of white hang off the clouds, swallowng up the sun and swirling towards me across the mountain tops.
The patchwork of storms transforms the land into light and shadow. Big, rising clouds deepen the sky, soaring like towers above my head. Patches of sunlight glow in and out of the open spaces. Wind pushes everything forward at a mad pace.
I feel small along the empty path, a spot of color in the white, grey, and green. Ice rains down and the sun disappears, everything disappears as I pull my hood tight and walk forward. I watch my feet, believing that the storm has an edge, that each step brings me closer.
It’s all faith in that moment. Faith that I’ve read the weather right, that there is a limit to the storm, that I will outlast it.
The wind and ice swirl around me. I fight to remember the patchwork of clouds and the bits of storm broken by sunlight, to believe. It will not last. It will not last. It will not last.
I breathe deep, feeling the air in my lungs as my chest rises and falls, listening to the ice pop off the ground. This is my world. I know what I am am doing here. This storm cannot touch me.
I think of the two hunters I met earlier. Their dogs didn’t bark at all, they just looked at me, sniffed, and politely moved on. The men were kind too. A big fellow with huge hands and his smaller friend with the warm smile. We spoke in Spanish and walked together down the road. They were hunting birds, but seemed more about enjoying a walk in the woods on a sunny day.
What happened to that sunny day?
The storm breaks. The edge slides over me and away, drifting past like a white veil. Sunlight spills in. Clouds gather and rise like towers all around. Flecks of ice cover the ground, crunching under my steps, melting away in the light.
I keep walking, waiting for the next storm, the next patch of sunlight, the next show to begin. I love sunny days and blue skies, but they are easy. There is something magic in the unpredictable clouds, in the patchwork of storms, in the wind pushing across the peaks. They demand attention and hold your eyes. They sharpen your focus. They refuse you the chance to drift away. They punish mistakes, threaten harm, and remind you that nature can always make you feel small.
Yes, so small, but so alive.