Relative silence.

I took the trash out this evening. It wasn’t late (only about 6 pm), but it was dark — because winter brings snow and subzero temperatures and darkness. And once the night wrapped its arms around me, I couldn’t tear myself away. Walk with me, the evening whispered. So I did.

The five-below-zero air kissed my forehead as I walked westward. Relative silence pervaded the atmosphere; it stood next to me like a friend with her arms out, holding unwelcome presences at bay. Only the sound of snow crunching beneath my boots broke the quiet, but it was such a gentle noise that “crunch” is too harsh a word. In fact, nothing – not even the silence – was broken; there was just harmony. As we walked through the peaceful air . . . sharp, but not bitter . . . my companions Snow and Cold and Relative Silence kindly took my hands and took me back.

I used to walk 1.2 miles every day through clean, invigorating air so similar to that which I walked through this evening. Cold and I weren’t such good friends at the time, but perhaps years of acquaintanceship drew us closer. And tonight — as I walked with my friends down 33rd Avenue in West Fargo and West Stevens Avenue in Rushford — I wondered: why did we build a world where it’s not safe for so many people to walk? Why must children and women and people of color examine their surroundings with anxiety as they walk down sidewalks and streets made for safe travel?

I asked these questions in a language only Nighttime and Cold and Relative Silence could understand. I didn’t ask to be answered, but to be understood.

I asked my questions and I missed my once brief commute. (1.2 miles has grown to 17.2 miles.) I also missed the peace and quiet of the country, the woods, the farm fields. I didn’t experience the sad kind of missing – just the remembering kind of missing.

I also wondered if my children will ever make friends with Cold and Relative Silence like I did. I hope they do. I hope we can work on making a world where it’s safer for all children to walk companionably, not with ringing cell phones and blaring iPods, but with sweet and understanding Relative Silence.

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