The frozen dew drops reflect crystal light from my head torch, the winter air crisp with each intake of breath.
The darkness just increases the contrast of the light, making each drop, on each blade of grass and pine needle all the more stunning. The song birds are back in their nests, the evening chorus long since sung. The darkness awakens and conceals other animals who silently stalk through the understory.
As you enter the sanctuary of the trees, the boundary is marked by a literal hard line on the ground where the frost ends. The ground becomes blanketed by pine needles, the boughs high above softening and warming (just enough) the air. Your senses dial up to eleven as things look and sound different. Familiar trails level out and low ridges exaggerate as your vision renders the ground differently when illuminated in measured lumens.
The silence is held back by the sound of your effort and when the trail allows, the whirring buzz of your freehub. But pause to gather yourself and the starkness is striking, we are unfamiliar with this environment and situation now, but we evolved from it.
The school yard logic tells us that our ancestors went to bed when it was dark and awoke when the sun rose, but in the extremes of the hemispheres, that is just impractical. Man once stalked the landscape under the stars, living as an nocturnal and daylight creature, when the seasons or latitude necessitated.
We used to be at home in the dark, our eyes, whilst not ideal can still navigate without the aid of artificial light. Our torches whilst lighting our way, in fact blind us to what our eyes can see once accustomed to the night.
We have moved inwards and surrounded ourselves with conveniences, which is all certainly progress in the right direction. But sometimes we need to be in the dark, we need the silence, we need to hear our own hearts beat.