Usually on Friday’s I volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. It’s a good cause, there’s a fun group of mostly retired guys that I work with and, building stuff is fun. Today, though, it was cancelled, too cold. Now what? Instead, I went for a walk way back into the woods.
The Kalispell area was the warm spot in Montana this morning. Butte, the Mining City, way south and east of us, was -16 F, we were a balmy 6 degrees. Its not as cold as it sounds. Warm boots, merino wool underwear (in case you were wondering) and an insulated Carhartt bib that I have had a long time. In fact. I bought it in December 1989. How do I remember? Because I bought it when I thought I would be part of the delivery crew for the ‘new’ training ship. Turned out I didn’t get to go, they hired a union crew to hustle the ‘new’, now old, training ship out of the Great Lakes. I’m still disappointed and I still have the insulated Carhartt’s in case the opportunity ever comes up again.
Anyway, as I ramble on, this is about the sound of silence. How many times have you ever heard nothing? Once I get over the hill and around the corner behind our house the sounds of man fade away and the sounds of the North West Montana woods take over. There are days when our natural neighbors are busy. Birds are singing and squirrels are chirping (or whatever that sound is). Today was completely silent. The squirrels must have been resting. There was no noise.
Nothing from nature and, thankfully, nothing man made. No one was going on about the next, 2024 election. No tractor trailer gears were grinding nor planes flying overhead. In fact, there was no noise of any kind. It was just the sound, or lack of sound, of the forest in winter.
To someone who grew up a half block from an elevated subway and spent way too much time commuting to the Bronx, silence is something I’m still not totally used to. At these moments every little thing, every little sound, becomes magnified. A crow flew over. I knew because I heard his wings making a very mellow swooshing sound. He flew off and then there was…. Nothing. Minutes later a ticking sound caught my attention. I don’t know what kind of bird it was but he/she was having breakfast. A few more pecks and it flew off. Then… nothing.
This is the point where you start talking to yourself, “Boy, it sure is noisy around here.”
Today was also the day I decided to test a winter survival skill in preparation for Search and Rescue training tomorrow. Did you know you can start a fire from cotton balls?
No, don’t rub them together.
In our 24- hr. packs we are supposed to carry fire starting stuff. It turns out a Bic lighter is useless when its cold. Just keep on flicking until spring. There’s a less technical, more interesting, way to start fire that works just about all the time. A cotton ball rubbed in Vaseline when hit by a spark will burst into flames.
So, carry your cotton balls and your spark maker and you will never be without the warmth of a fire.