I try to see into the woods beyond my LED headlamp but the air has gotten cold and my breath creates an endless fog. Ice crystals dance on the leaves and ground, forming frost. Each time my cloud floats away it is time to breathe again. The moon is full and the helicopters have taken a break. My search group splintered into the wind and my wife and I are alone. I reach up and turn off my light then wait for my eyes to adjust to the forest. She does too. My other senses spring to life; smell of the pine, feel of the slow air held close to the ground by the pine thicket, sounds muffled by the dense bed of pine needles and brush; taste of the forest at night.
I sit on the ground, basking in the silence. My wife sits by me. We are helpless in our quest.
When I was younger I would go coon hunting with my parents and we would turn off our lights and sit together in silence while taking a break from hiking. Nobody talked much in the dark but we bonded in our common quest. There was something empowering about facing the night. Exposing the demons for what they really are, simply shadows.
The woods are a nostalgic comfort.
An old friend.
I thank the fates for their gentle reminder. Yet tonight, there is someone in these woods who isn’t comfortable. He isn’t familiar with the sounds and smells. He isn’t prepared for the kind of cold where you can see your breath. He doesn’t have a light to guide him home. He is not yet three years old.
While my clock will take me well into tomorrow…
His life is facing its midnight.
I turn on my light and continue to walk. What more can be done?
Little Noah, you have been loved by more people than you can ever know and the unity you brought to a community is a miracle in itself.