WHEN I FINALLY WALK OUTSIDE AFTER CHANGING into warmer clothes and rolling my bed blanket under my arm, the sun is shifted to the west and there’s not a cloud in the sky. It’s half past four, which gives me an hour and a half at best. I hate the rushed quality of Sundays, the way the day creeps by until the very moment we’re free, at which point time flies. I look to the east, and the light reflected off the snow causes me to squint. The cave is over two rocky hills. With as much snow as there is on the ground now, I’m not even sure I’ll see the opening today. But I pull on my hat, zip up my jacket, tie the blanket around my neck like a cape, and head east.
Two tall birch trees mark the trail’s start, and my feet turn cold the second I enter the deep drifts. The blanket-cape sweeps the snow behind me, erasing my footprints. I pass a few recognizable fixtures that show the way—a rock jutting out past the others, a tree that leans at a slightly different angle. After about twenty minutes I pass the rock formation identical to a camel’s back, which tells me I’m almost there.
I have the faint sensation of being watched, possibly followed. I turn and scan the mountainside. Silence. Snow, nothing else. The blanket around my neck has done a great job of hiding my tracks. A slow, prickly feeling crawls up the back of my neck. I’ve seen the way rabbits blend into the landscape, going unnoticed until you’re almost on top of them, and I know that just because I can’t see somebody doesn’t mean they can’t see me.
Five minutes later I finally spot the rounded shrub that blocks the entrance. The cave’s mouth looks like an oversized groundhog hole cutting into the mountain, and that’s exactly what I had mistaken it for years ago. But when I’d looked more closely I knew I was wrong. The cave was deep and dark, and back then I could see next to nothing in the little light that entered. There was an implicit desire to discover the cave’s secrets, and I