We discovered the entrance to a universe halfway up a hiking trail.
We were exploring one of the canyons along the mountain range nearby.
We've made it a ritual every winter to hike up the trails after dark.
There is no one else to bother us or get in our way sledding back down.
A blanket of snow is draped across everything in gleaming silence.
Sticking to the well packed path is necessary to prevent sinking too deep.
We drag our sleds behind us as we wind up the trail with light sticks.
Placing them carefully at bends in the path as markers, little glow posts.
Facing our mortality in the winds of night on a mountainside is a blast.
Sharing the forest with night creatures reminds us of our relationship.
Our relationship to the occult sky and the starpoints spread out above.
The kinship felt with the wind answers the question where do we roam?
Anywhere we please so long as we can carry our hearts and eyes along.
Off a bend in the path about a half mile up the trail we spotted an owl.
It was up on a branch in the half gloom, starlight reflected off its eyes.
Unblinking it regarded us in what some would consider a baleful stare.
As birds have always been our spirit guides, we knew better than this.
Owls in particular are indicators of portentous probability, to us.
This one proved to be something more as it flew away through the gloom.
It looked back over its feathered shoulder at us indicating we should follow.
Its aerial path took it between older trees deeper into the sighing forest.
Having been literally born for exploration of the unknown, we followed.
The ticking forest welcomed us into its embrace. We left our sleds behind.
That owl led us back to the city and is now perched over our front door.
It turned into a hollow plastic effigy filled with smooth rounded stones.
It fools petty scavenger birds from swooping into our yard for scraps.
The sleds were recovered and now hang in the garage, warped with time.
The ringing laughter cascading in our yard brings echoes of this memory.
Our children are forbidden from ever exploring the mountain after dark.
We simply want to prolong their time with us here in our heart.