An owl is hooting. The waxing moon has long since set, and the clouds it illuminated are now almost as dark as the mass of trees. Maybe the owl can see this dim landscape, but I can make out only vague shapes. The stars do not exist. Still, all but invisible, silent but for the hooting owl, the night becomes something to feel and breathe. There is damp in the air, and scents rise from grass and soil and leaves. Cold creeps through cloth, brushes my skin and makes it shiver. I inhale what seems an essence of the changing seasons, and it is as though the earth and woods were dissolving into this dense fragrance, and winter being expelled from the ground to become a fog that can be felt and smelled but not seen. I would like to keep this ghost in a bottle, to be opened in the sultry days of summer.
Dusk arrives, and the sky which was gray all afternoon at last turns blue, a deep and rich shade which first darkens, then gradually grows both paler and more dim, and gives way to starless night. The heavy canopy of clouds conceals the half moon's light, except for brief moments when a patch will glow, then fade, as the dense vapor is driven east by winds unfelt on the ground. A few times, late in the day, scattered drops of rain would fall, and the scent of damp pavement would rise, but now the cool air is empty, and there is not even the croaking of frogs to break the stillness that prevails between the sounds of the last commuters' cars passing and the occasional bark of a dog. The town has closed its doors and windows, the birds have settled and now sleep, the pine needles dimly etch the darkened sky unmoving, ink on dark, mottled parchment. I listen for the sound of raindrops, but none come.