By: A.L. Renna
Their breath is faint, muddled by the sound of my sled ploughing through the freshly fallen snow. I can see them working hard, using every ounce of energy they have to keep us moving forward. Work may be the wrong word—I swear I see them smiling as they pick up speed.
The sun is reflected off the icy surface blinding me for a brief moment, but it’s OK, they know where they’re going. I’m not even sure they need me. We’ve taken this road before, up the steep incline and around the now-frozen pond. Soon we will reach the edge of the forest where the wide open landscape turns to a narrow run, twisting and turning through endless evergreens.
I wipe the snow off my brow, new flakes almost immediately taking hold, kicked up by the dogs. “Hike, hike!” I call out, as they pick up even more speed. The wind whips at my face and I begin to feel weightless, like no amount of resistance would keep these dogs from doing what they were born to do.
The lead dogs start barking which, in turn, gets the whole team going—a serenade of howling as if they are having so much fun they can’t keep it to themselves any longer. We round the corner and there it is, an opening in the tree line and, beyond that, darkness.
“Easy!” I yell, in hopes of slowing them just enough to avoid a branch to the face. They ease through the narrow entrance as if by magic, without disturbing a single pine needle. The tree cover is like a warm blanket, shielding us from the cross-breeze. I take a deep breath and delight in this moment, as we wind our way through the darkness.
I have no flashlight but there’s no need. The dogs can see through the thick black. Once in a while I catch a sliver of the moon sparkling through the canopy overhead—it’s just enough to spy the faint outline of my team, each dog running side by side in a rhythm only they can keep pace with.
Up ahead I see a light. I know what’s coming. I call again to my team but they already know what to do. Flying once more, the light gets bigger and brighter as we close in on our destination, casting shades of green and yellow on the surrounding trees. I close my eyes, waiting for that moment when I can feel the light hit me. 3….2….1….
I open my eyes just as we break free from the darkness, the forest now behind me. The world shatters open wide, shades of pink, orange, and yellow pouring out in every possible direction. A green glow emerges from the horizon, fighting for space, in a sky so vast it swallows me whole.
The dogs come to a halt as if they, too, are spellbound. Our silence becomes deafening, and I can almost hear the colors bouncing back and forth, playfully dancing against a backdrop of stars.
We stay still, waiting for the light show to end—hoping it never will—but knowing this kind of beauty is but a glimpse of what awaits us. Graciously accepting our good fortune, we watch as the heavens descend once more, comforted by this testament to a world beyond.
This story was previously published in our digital publication on Medium.com.