The mountain fog engulfed the quiet stands of beech and oak, revealing only hints of their gnarled and twisted outlines. The air was dead and silent, and icy flakes of cloud particles clung to our faces. The smell of frozen earth beckoned us to continue the winding ascent. Time lost its meaning, distance its power. The peak, we assumed, was only a brief walk ahead, but at this elevation, slightly lower oxygen levels added strain to every step.
We paused, listening. Our gasping breaths were the only sound on earth. I turned toward Daniel; his gentle brown eyes matched the woodland’s every hue. We dared not speak; the silence seemed for a moment to hold the universe in place.
Finally, a white-tailed doe came bounding toward us from the depths of the fog. She barreled through the air–up, down, up, down–ascending with grace and descending with power. Her tar-black hooves stabbed the soil and splashed dirt across the trail. She strode gallantly past us–almost oblivious–from one wall of fog into another, until she dissolved, dreamlike, into the ether of cloud on the far side of the trail. The sound of her footsteps lingered for a moment more, either in the distance or an echo or merely in the magic of our memories, and then she was gone.