One late afternoon an acquaintance and I drove his battered truck as far as it would go up a snow-filled mountain road. When finally the drifts became too deep, and even in four-wheel drive the truck couldn’t push another inch forward, he cut the engine so that suddenly we were thrown into a silence as profound as the one that I imagine defines deep space. The daylight still hovered above us but the night sky and the stars seemed only a short distance away, still invisible but as immutable as death. And perhaps there was a kind of foreknowing in that, for my acquaintance died not too long afterward in an accident.


We tramped fifty yards this way and that from the truck. What I remember is the deep blue of the snow in the shadows. What I remember is finding a frigid stream quietly trickling beneath ice, and how the bland light glowed and faded on the mountains. We had come as far as anyone conveniently could go, and if we didn’t leave soon, backing the truck down in its own ruts, it would be more than easy never to leave again. There wasn’t much to say. All we could do was stand knee deep, looking up the valley and into the snow-crusted forests and hills ahead, and try to fill in the blank meaning on the face of it all. It seemed as if I had found a place of immaculate treasures, a room of gold and silver and pearls, and even though I had been searching for this place my whole life, now that I’d finally found it, it was only worth staying a moment. It seemed a colder place than anything I could have ever imagined.


At some point I realized he and I were not there together. He stood with his back to me, separate, and I stood with my back to him as well. In its way, in its eerie, strangely beautiful way, the place was like a tomb.