(The first in a four-part series of vignettes)
Evan brushed away the snow and lifted the tarp. The stiff plastic crackled. He heaped a stack of logs in his arms, then let the tarp fall. His breath billowed in brilliant white clouds.
Turning back to the stairs, he avoided the crusted ice. Each thump of his boots across the porch echoed in the walls of the cabin. He dropped the load next to the door, then returned to the railing, which overlooked the silent woods. The slopes held a luminescence. The leaves had fallen and now knitted into the soil under a layer of snow.
Evan blew heat into his cupped hands. A waft of smoke swirled, then melted into the air. The bitter smell evoked the warmth of firelight inside. Still, he remained.
Overhead, the heavens dazzled with stars. So many stars. Shining with infinite variations. Evan marveled at the display. The haze of summer never could compare, even in those remote mountains where little light bled from civilization.
Evan questioned whether he was lonely.
Perhaps. But only in the most profound stillness could he hear the voice where all branches of his personality rooted. Only in isolation would the bending of himself ease and the lines become true. He decided he welcomed the fleeting loneliness.
He swept the northern sky in the hope of catching the dance of solar winds, the aurora borealis. Instead, only the cold permanence of stars. So, he climbed and wandered the great circle of sky. There he saw the three stars of Orion's belt. Orion the Hunter. And below, like the tip of a sheathed sword, the great Orion nebula. So profoundly beautiful in pictures, the nebula hung like cotton without color or definition.
The first shivers tickled his legs, and he yawned. The late night was drifting into morning. Evan drank one last view of the rarity, then hurried back inside. In the trees, a breeze stirred, and a few clinging leaves chattered. Icy crystals sprinkled, then the hush settled once more.
And for a moment, as Evan nestled under the blanket of the sleeping world, curtains of blue shimmered in the north.
Mystical and secret.