Tonight the shadows of the trees are like gunmetal against the snow. His thoughts are brooding and dark, so unlike this moonlit woods where nothing murmurs and gnaws at its edges. It is almost warm in here without a breathe of wind but he would welcome the cold, even to lie down in the folds of snow and sleep, to keep the sobs from thawing in his throat.
His boots sift through the snow, the only tracks to mar its starched surface. It is clean like the maternity ward in the halo of bright lights beyond the trees where he has left his wife and her empty womb. Stillbirth in an age of miracles is a lonely burden, but how different for her with a body that betrays, and how helpless for him who would have given anything to spare her, who will still make the arrangements and see to the ashes and become hard as rock because there is nothing else he can be.
He does not know the path. These are not his woods. He has not seen this movie before.
There are fresh tracks now before him, the broad splayed feet of snowshoe hare moving by furtive leaps from cover to cover beneath the trees. He turns aside and follows. The prints are sharp and recent, revealing to his poor senses the mystery that every other nose in the forest can tell without need of snow. There is comfort in this single focus, to stalk and pursue without doubt or distraction.
And then, turmoil. A sideways leap, a red spot on the snow, with the prints of two, great wings transfixed at either side like the helm of a Valkyrie that stoops to retrieve the fallen. Assuredly an owl, that silent hunter, or to his doubting heart an angel descending in the quiet of the world, declaring life in death on beating wings.
All is still. Something gives way as he exhales, and breaks free. The moon passing through the trees turns always toward the world.