“Snow Blind Friend,” a song written by Hoyt Axton and made famous by Steppenwolf, is about a friend addicted to cocaine. As someone who lives in Northern Michigan, a feeling of being snow blind, sans drugs, is a typical February phenomenon. Recently, as I walked on the frozen lake past ice shanties with fishermen carefully tending their lines, snowmobiles occasionally buzzed across the lake. I spoke to no one. My boots made a path in the untouched snow, a reminder of where I had been. Thankfully, the sun lit up the blue sky like a promise instead of the flat gray I had grown accustomed to. Flat gray skies, the color of needles, had become a chromatic aberration trying to crash through my skull.
I imagined fish moving somewhere far below me, the ice and snow separating us from each other. During winter, their world below me, easily identifiable during spring, summer, and fall, becomes unknowable. Ennui settles in, so on my lake/ice/snow walks, I feel the loneliness of solitude, but I embrace the quiet. I need to feel the silence surround me. If I do not learn to listen when there is nothing to hear, then how will I know how to listen when there is something to hear?
On a recent walk, a small plane sliced through the sky, and the white wings blinded me as the sunshine refracted the light. The engine’s buzz disrupted the momentary silence. I thought of the sounds I missed the most: The voice of an old friend, my dog’s sharp bark when he wanted my attention, and my father saying “well, hello,” when I walked into his room. I remembered Axton’s words, “You say it was this morning when you last saw your good friend/ lying on the sidewalk with the misery on his brain.” Those last moments evolve into memories riddled with misery and longing.
I stopped for a moment, felt the sun’s warmth on my face, and turned around and saw my trail of solitude in the snow. I stepped smoothly into the unbroken snow and began the slow walk home, avoiding the path I had created earlier, remembered and listened.