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Winter Silence

By Loni Kemp, January 24, 2024

The Wolf Moon is also called the Moon on the Frost of Tipis by the Dakota people. (Photo by Sharen Storhoff)

Winter Silence


CANTON TOWNSHIP, FILLMORE COUNTY — Stepping outside into the night, I experience the January full moon. Amid sparkling stars, the large bright orb serenely stares back at me through a tracery of tree branches. Frosty air stings my nose, and the deep cold of below-zero temperatures clarifies the air.

A blanket of snow over the earth muffles all sound, and the quiet engulfs me. I feel like I am the only living being to have ventured forth out of a cozy hibernation to experience the full Wolf Moon. 

At its farthest point from earth in January, the Wolf moon was so named because wolves were likely to be howling at this time, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Minnesota Dakota people called it the Hard Moon or the Moon of Frost in the Tipis, while Ojibwa people called it Spirit Moon.

In January, the moon is at its furthest point from earth. (Photo by Sunny Helbacka)

One of winter’s gifts to us who live in the North is the opportunity to experience silence. I start to pay attention in early summer, as I notice that the frogs are quieting their almost hysterical calls for mates.

The daylong cacophony of spring birds fades by midsummer, as they settle into the chores of feeding and fledging their young. By late summer, the crickets no longer vocalize their nighttime symphony. By the time the leaves fall, even the wind barely whispers in the bare branches of the still forest.

In winter, if we listen and open our ears to the silence, we can transform the experience from one of noticing what we no longer hear, to one of perceiving silence itself. This is the silence of deep snows and still nights.

If I hold my breath, I can hear my own heart beating. If a barred owl happens to call out, “Who cooks for you?” the sound is so distinct that it feels like he must be talking right to me.

Too often there seems to be an aversion to silence in modern life. We spend our days as consumers, plugged in from morning to night with music, news, radio, movies, television, and video games. We get so used to the stimuli that sometimes we can’t stop even when we are among other people, as we keep glancing at our cell phones. 

We forget to balance the taking in with pauses for reflection. I need silence to rest my brain, listen to my own heart, and open my senses to experience the world more fully. 

For a silence that bores deep into one’s chest, leave the house in the stillness of a Minnesota winter night. Listen to the silence. When the bite of bitter cold drives you back inside, you’ll remember that moment when silence spoke to you.



Loni Kemp worked for forty years bringing organizations together to create sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and a healthy environment. She gardens and forages at her home near Canton.


Root River Current’s coverage of literary arts is made possible, in part, by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts & cultural heritage fund.

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