Snowed in

Alone on the mountain. I’ve been hiking for a few hours. I can only hear my breathing and the sound of my steps in the snow.

It started around lunch. At first hesitant, a few snowflakes here and there. Then settling in, with a constant but calm snow fall all through the afternoon. Then fully unbound, with ridiculously big snowflakes. Like a thick white curtain blowing in the wind.

Winter up high. Sinaia (Romania), January 2018.

My mountain trail should have taken 5-6 hours to complete, but it became more and more difficult to advance through the fresh snow. I’ve lost, then found, then lost again the trail markers. It was late afternoon and I just stopped, with no plan and no hope to get back down before nightfall.

Half-frozen, I took refuge in a shack used by shepherds during the summer, as they travel slowly across the mountain range with their flock. The shack smelled of old wood and sheep skin. It smelled of loneliness.

I always have problems sleeping in a place I don’t know, but here I’ve dozed off almost instantly. It may have been my mind refusing to confront the situation. I say sleep but it felt more like falling into a bottomless pit. As if my mind completely shut off. There was dark, with only distant echoes of what would normally have been dreams.

And then there was light.

The light was coming from a small, dirty window pane.

It took me a minute to gather myself and realize where I am. The fright and confusion of last night seemed like distant memories. I was fully clothed and wrapped in a sheep-smelling blanket.

I stepped outside. Blinded by the light, I took in the cold air. Everything felt fresh, as if just created. I was ready to take my first step in the virgin snow.

Just as when I was little, I silently said “me” to remind myself that I am actually existing here and now. And, just as when I was little, I got dizzy from actually realizing this.

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