When the air is still and snowflakes fall straight-line to the earth, there is no sound. No crackle of brown oak leaves still clinging to stems in February. No conversation between greater limbs rubbing elbows in the woods, grousing of the wily winds amongst themselves. Even the birds are quiet today. I see silent winter music even if I don’t hear it. My lab mix Wally and I have the unplowed road to ourselves. This new snow covers the grit sprayed in giant swaths from lumbering plows and patches of hard-dark road widening beneath crystalline salt rock, the aftermath of an earlier storm. Now all is clean again, made so flake by delicate flake laid patiently in the quiet of night. It stretches ahead as blank sheet music, and we are the composers. Wally walks ahead of me creating a score of prints in 3/4 time, each paw print a quarter note. A cheerful background rhythm in allegro. I notice his eighth note now and then, coming from the limp in his left shoulder. The paw print notes rise and fall as he scales octaves, following the silence of scent from one side of the road to the other. A million molecules left behind in the night stimulate the imagination, and awaken some primordial instinct to flush out what is essential. What drives the melody of any composer?
The notes of deer add harmony to his; new instruments bringing richness to the melody. Theirs are half-notes, the space between them wider, bolder. Mezzo forte. Wally synchronizes with them and the music builds in a crescendo. There is a dramatic rest as he plunges his nose into a print and then a rabbit joins the melody, adding half-notes too, but in a timid pianissimo. The melody creates itself, unfolding in the untouched white. Almost unnoticed, I am the steady bass rhythm alongside, the metronome.
In time, rabbit and deer fade into the woods, leaving us to finish the score. I unhook Wally’s lead and give him freedom to compose. He runs for the house, quintuplets of quarter notes with a gap of white snowy silence in between. I lay my own steady beat alongside his, in andante. And harmony.