Patricia Wolf ventured out into the cold of Portland, Oregon, where she lives, and brought some of it back with her. She then located a choice minute and a half, set it to fade in, so as not to shock the listener with a bright hard start, and then to fade out, so as to bring it to a natural-seeming close, and then she uploaded it to her SoundCloud account under the title “Snow Falling on Rough Horsetail and Dead Oak Leaves,” which is as evocative as could be.
Without the title, the crackles might suggest fire. If you’ve settled in for the day, removed from pandemic-era life, the fire or ice of the sound — either one — might provide some comfort, a different background sound ported to the confines of your own home. If, however, you’re suffering the brutal winter that parts of the world are, especially if you’ve lost heat, then the sense of fire could be a mocking illusion, and the sense of ice a cruel reminder of what lurks on the other side of the wall.
In other words, this, to me, placid rendering, this gentle document, might harbor other meanings for other ears. For even nature is a blank slate, framed not just by Wolf’s microphone and editing choices (I must have played it 20 times before I took note of the bird cawing at the beginning), but by our own experiences and circumstances, as well.