Silence

Winter has finally arrived in the BC interior this year. As of yesterday the temperatures have fallen and the snow has begun to rise. We’ve had the snowblower out a couple of times now and the last vestiges of green grass that (surprisingly) remained until late-November are under a quilt of white.

Most of the visible insect activity ended a few weeks ago at the latest, though there were still a few stray moths fluttering at my bus stop a bit before Hallowe’en. The plants in our garden, in the patches along the side of the roads, and in the understory beside forest paths in town are dormant. The leaves are all down and those that weren’t raked (OK people, mulch!! Save your back, and create some habitat… but I digress) are under the snow and are providing shelter for unseen denizens living below their new white, insulating roof. The fallen leaves are waiting for next spring when they will become food for invertebrates and fungi and will quickly turn into the next layer of topsoil to nurture summer growth.

Other than in the southern reaches of our continent, or perhaps along the coasts, we are all now entering into a period of relative quiet. Roots and rhizomes tuck in underground waiting out the cold months. Spring-buzzing and summer-chirping insects and other invertebrates in various life stages bundle under topsoil and mulch or nestle into sheltered nooks on plant stems or buildings. Leafless angiosperms barely whisper-move in the wind. Neighboring conifers maybe, just maybe, eke out a bit of photosynthesis here and there during warm spells. Many of the birds have left on long journeys to the far south, taking their songs with them. And the world has shifted from full HD color to black and white… and occasional spectacular blue on deep cold and cloudless days.

As a biologist, I know that these yearly cycles of quiescence and renewal are a vital part of the system in temperate climes. But, even knowing that I still miss the swirl of insects, the scent of wild roses and cottonwood buds, and the background chatter of birds singing their territorial warnings to each other. It’s important to realize that silence, stillness, soft snow, and serenity represent the repose of the world around us as it waits for wakeful spring. It’s important to embrace and welcome this season of silence as we each welcome a nightly sleep.

In the meantime, as the world around us slumbers, I look forward to brief dream flashes of sky-wrestling corvids, and melting interlude budded reminders of what is to come. Let the silence begin, and sweet dreams to all of the sleepers.