I wake just before midnight and peep through a crack in the blind to find the night-world altered by snow. We have been expecting a ‘beast from the east’ but this is too tame, too silent to suggest that ferocity will follow. I watch a confetti of snow flutter and twirl gently beneath the glow of the street lights. Snow contains a world of silence within it. I know that come morning, it will have muffled the sounds of the landscape, but for now, there is something magical about the quiet of its falling.
Snow covers but it also reveals. Reflecting the promise of dawn, the park in the early hours is much lighter than it should be and I wonder how a sky still dark can appear light. Snow reveals where we have been. There are tracks in the park, tracks of a dog and her human companion. I know who they belong to and the snow shows me that they have been here before us. The snow reveals the visits of those we might not normally see. Another snow-clad morning in another place, there is only one set of human footprints visible, but the rabbits have been busy and the snow allows me to follow their path.
On the beast’s first morning, the sunrise slants across the square, stretching the tree shadows and gilding the white. Poking through the snow, crocuses are a brave yellow stream and purple puddles. But it isn’t long before the beast reveals its teeth. Snow reveals but it also covers. The blizzards sweep in and obscure the landscape in a whorl of ivory. The fog horn is humming in the distance, a ship slowly honks its horn as it moves out of the river. Drifts of powder billow from the roof tops. I don’t recall the last time I saw an icicle here, but scores of them drip from scaffolding in the street.
The beast doesn’t stop. Sometimes gentle and wispy, sometimes heavy like ticker tape. It continues until the landscape is marshmallow. The brave crocuses are now buried, the daffodil shoots wilting. I see a dead house spider in the snow and I wonder how it got there. The whine of the wind is often a lonely sound but it seems even more so as it hums across the snow-covered void. It howls and moans like a cartoon ghost, scattering the park with limbs of trees. A platinum flash of lightning and a crack of thunder – just one. I’m on the phone to someone 3 miles away and we both see and hear it at the same time. According to meteorologists it is now the first day of spring, but the beast doesn’t care about that.
Snow covers. For a while it cloaks the world in fleecy beauty. It empties the streets and deadens harsh sounds. The ugliest sights are given a pleasing blanket of diamonds. It clothes the bones of trees and the mud-soaked ground.
Snow makes us children again. My dog bounds like a puppy. Snowmen appear on every corner. Families appear with sledges. A group of young people play snowballs. This is an unusual snowfall and there is a sense of lightness, of happiness, that it has changed the world for a while.
I don’t want to let go of the snow. I walk down to the dene on the last day that it covers the ground. Dogwood reds and golden reeds are vivid against the pale landscape. The ponds are frozen in milky patches and fractured reflections. I take seed for the ducks and gulls stranded on the ice. There is sadness in the slow melt, as the soft white becomes hard and translucent at the edges and the snow becomes grey slush. Rain will come tonight and wash away every last trace. I don’t want to let go and yet at the same time I long now for lighter mornings and kinder weather. I’m glad that the beast visited but happy to bid her a fond farewell.
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