Even the birds and wildlife are quiet. The occasional rustle among thick brambles signals the presence of a squirrel foraging for snacks. Canadian geese call out to each other as they sail overhead to a nearby lake.
According to New Jersey Conservation Foundation staff biologist Dr. Emilie DeVito,
underneath all the decaying leaves and mottled floor in shades of brown, the forest is alive with quiet work.
As falling leaves pile on the forest floor, water, molds and other fungi work together to decompose the material. On warmer days, invertebrates living in the soil begin shredding and chopping up the softened leaves. By early spring, this matter will serve as nutrient-rich food for root and fungal mats in the humus – the rich soil layer beneath the leaf litter.
Pausing to experience the silence of the forest during the winter months is a gift of presence.
While the other seasons offer spectacular feasts for the senses – the scents of new life in spring and the explosion of activity in summer, from warm breezes to the chorus of cicadas and dancing canopy of leaves, to the vibrant colors and transitional movement of fall – winter is a gift of silence and stillness.
What the forest knows and can teach each of us as we walk and pause quietly among the still trees, is that the light always returns.
Life is a series of cycles and the night is always darkest before the dawn.