I love many things about living on the mountain, but near the top of my list is the quiet. At night, when I most like to walk, the quiet is even deeper and more profound than during the day. At night, the only bird I hear is the sound of a distant great-horned owl or perhaps the brief staccato of a startled killdeer. The nearest public road, half a mile away, is never very busy. It’s not uncommon for half an hour or more to pass without a car traveling on it. At night, this time increases, perhaps to hours without a traveler.
At night, my sight, too, is limited by the blanket of darkness around me. In a way, this helps to still my mind, to relax after a busy day. At night, I can see fewer things that look interesting, fewer things to distract my attention, to disturb my thoughts. As long as the moon is half or more full, I will walk without a light, even in the woods, though I know the path. In the winter, when the leafy canopy is gone, I need no moon at all, as long as the stars are out, to light my way. I like to walk without a flashlight, when I can. It makes me feel invisible, as though I am passing without a trace. I feel a part of the woods, not like an intruder or a visitor but simply another resident.
This night, as fall settles in on the mountain, the only sound is that of a few tree frogs or “spring” peepers, raising a soft chorus perhaps for the last time this season. Their chorus sounds a bit sad and much diminished over the multitude of froggy voices that greets the first warm night of spring.
Beside me, Dog suddenly tenses and comes up onto his toes. I feel this more than I see him do it. He sees or hears something that is imperceptible to me. I stop, peer into the darkness and listen, but sense nothing. Perhaps it is a deer or rabbit, perhaps a fox or merely a flutter of leaf. After a few seconds, he relaxes. It, whatever It is, is gone or at least not the threat he first imagined.
To my eyes, the movement that caught his attention will be forever invisible, and I am reminded again of a valuable lesson. My own perceived “invisibility” is hardly complete.
Though other humans can’t see me on my nightly walks, other species, whose own senses are better tuned to the darkness, watch me pass. They will be safe and still in some hiding place or perhaps even standing in the open too far away for me to see. To them I am visible, and my feeling of invisibility is nothing more than just another false, human conceit.
Dog and I walk on, deep in the darkness of the night. In the distance, I see a car’s headlights. Dog and I are still far from the road. The evening is warm, and I hear music booming from the car radio. In the warmth of the night, the driver likely has his or her windows rolled down, enjoying that feeling perhaps for the last time this season. The car passes, its lights and its noise diminishing as quickly as it appeared. Dog and I are too far away for the driver to ever know we were there, watching him pass. I feel invisible again, almost as invisible as I imagine myself to be when I walk in the night.