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  • Students stomped out of the lodge. I can still hear the squeak in the door, the hollow slams, and the laughing. The dull ringing of the threshold snow grates under tired teenage boots sounds now to me something like remembered temple bells.

    There's a moment when responsibility is released, when a teacher in the field can breathe... because the students are about to sleep. It feels exactly like banking the fire in the toasty lodge and shouldering out the door to the frozen night. We know they're stoked. We grin. It's time for us to disappear and listen.

    This night, the one that sticks on my mind's eyelashes like a painfully perfect snowflake, we hung back to hunt the silence after the kids crunched back to their cabins. I stood in the dark, staring at the sparkling air between our breath and the clear stars. I remember breathing. I don't remember speaking. I reached for my flashlight, to find the path. We're talking National Park mountain dark here; I could hardly make you out, an arm's length away. You shook your head. Though I couldn't see them, I could feel your ice blue eyes daring me to invite the sublime.

    "I can't see," I whispered.
    "I know. Keep looking."

    We stood silent in the dark. Alone. Together. Like always.

    Four years later, I knelt on the floor of your office, sorting through manilla folders with your mom. Tucked next to planning notes for this trip, I found a Wendell Berry poem printed on a slip of paper with seven scattered tack holes at the top.

    "To go in the dark with a light," you had said, because you've always got poems in your head, "is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings."

    "Okay," I nodded, taking a deep breath and fixing my eyes on the curve of your wide shoulder, still the only visible landmark. "You go first."

    *see Death Cab For Cutie song of same title
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