The subzero morning quiets all the noise in her head. Icy air prickles the exposed skin of her face, pecking like hungry birds, and traces stiffening paths up her nose and down her throat. Even through dark glasses, the pale dawn light on the snow is blinding. She smiles, and her teeth are chilled. One step after another, her snowshoes carry her further from the house still crowded with the memory of all the family who recently left, and the three warm sleepy bodies still there, hunkered under afghans and watching TV. That colorful space, big enough to house the numerous and sometimes conflicting conversations, agendas and activities of three generations, is a speck under the wide open sky. The only sign of life is the exhaust from furnaces swirling above the uniformly iced rooftops. There are no other people out at that hour, in that temperature; no pets in the backyards. Even sound is absent; no birdsong or distant traffic noise compete with each crunching step and wssshing stride.
Thoughts retreat as well. The parts of her brain dedicated the last ten days to executing plans, anticipating, performing and connecting, find rest as she listens for rhythm in her gait and breath. Flat frozen ponds encircled by the hash mark geometry of dormant grasses offset the dark sinuous curves of the oak, maple and ash trees. The landscape is a balm needing no watchful study or tending. All the bits and pieces she had given of herself gradually return and by the time she is exhausted, leaving the last of her energy on the trail back home, she is whole again. A new beginning.